“Inclusion is what you do, equity is what you want, and diversity is what you get”: Takeaways from Boston University’s Black Media Symposium

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As a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the media and communications industry, it was an honour to be invited to participate and speak at Boston University's Black Media Symposium. The symposium, a day-long gathering of industry professionals and thought leaders, focused on exploring and advancing diversity in the media and communication’s industry—a mission I am committed to doing as part of my work leading Missive’s newly launched DE&I Consulting Practice.

Stepping into the symposium, I anticipated engaging discussions and impactful takeaways. What I encountered, however, exceeded my expectations. The atmosphere buzzed with enthusiasm and a collective commitment to drive transformative change within our industry.

Throughout the day, we delved deep into the challenges and triumphs of underrepresented communities in media and communications. The discussions were raw, honest and cathartic, renewing my drive and passion to make the media and comms industry - specifically Public Relations - more representative of the diverse communities we serve.

From exploring the critical role of representation in storytelling to understanding the power of authentic narratives, every session struck a chord. As a DE&I advocate and practitioner, it was sobering to realise that while progress has been made, we are still far from achieving true inclusivity. It emphasised the urgency for proactive measures, policies, and collaborations that would catalyse a paradigm shift toward a more diverse and equitable media and communications landscape.

Defining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Although most people are aware of the term ‘DE&I’ and its countless variations, it can sometimes feel abstract and therefore difficult to accurately define. Specifically, it can be difficult to define how to achieve it.

This was explored during a session titled “The Business Impact of DE&I on Media”, where one of the panellists, Paolo Gaudiano, Co-Founder & President of Aleria Research Corporation, a non-profit whose purpose is to conduct charitable, scientific research in areas related to Diversity & Inclusion, summed it up perfectly. Paolo said ‘Inclusion is what you do, equity is what you want, and diversity is what you get’ – a succinct yet powerful statement.

When speaking with people about DE&I within their organisations, they often cite that ‘they don’t know where to start’ – a fair challenge. We’re talking about addressing and contending with centuries of systemic oppression that has become pervasive – it can feel daunting for me as well…

But when broken down in the way Paolo phrased it – it seemed almost simple. If organisational leaders focus on creating truly inclusive cultures where people from all backgrounds can thrive, the rest tends to fall in place. Often diversity initiatives fail because they are surface level and don’t address the actual reason there is a lack of diversity. Hosting a ‘Black History Month’ lunch and learn feels a bit tone deaf if you have little to no Black people – and when you do hire them, they leave within a year. Instead, an organisation would be best placed to reflect and listen to those Black people within their business (and who have since left) to understand how they actually feel about the organisation, what they need, and for those who have left, why they did.

Moving the needle forward on inclusion

So, if inclusion is the foundation on which to build more equitable and diverse organisational cultures – what else can organisations do to foster inclusivity?

According to the panel, one of the keys to fostering inclusion is inextricably linked to organisational leadership. According to another panellist, Lynn K. Sitanimezi, Director, Organizational Development & DEIB at Driven Aligned Leadership Group, ‘Change and DE&I starts at the top’. She went on to say, ‘If the leader isn’t willing to change, change the leader.’

As you can imagine, this statement led to a solid round of applause from the audience. It’s no longer enough for organisational leaders to just say the right things, they need to do the right thing and set the example from the top. More business leaders need to be bringing DEI, HR and Comms leaders to the table to discuss the pillars of creating an inclusive (and subsequently equitable and diverse culture), instead of going down the route of performative efforts that miss the mark. 

Moving forward…  

After the symposium, I'm reminded that our journey towards DE&I in media and communications is an ongoing, collective effort. The symposium was a stepping stone—a catalyst for change. It emphasised the imperative to continue these discussions, implement actionable strategies, and amplify marginalized voices. 

Attending (and speaking) at the symposium reinforced the understanding that transformation requires courage—the courage to challenge the status quo, to unlearn biases, and to amplify unheard narratives. Each one of us is an agent of change, and together, we can pave a road where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not aspirations but the bedrock of our industry. 

Want to find out more about our DE&I Consulting? Contact us today.

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