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United States
DateJune 29, 2022
ByAzurée Montoute-Lewis
Reading time4mins

Reflections from Inkwell Beach Cannes

The Cannes Can: Diversity Collective (CC:DC) was created in 2017 by Adrianne C. Smith in response to the lack of diversity at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and in the advertising and marketing industry as a whole. CC:DC has moved beyond concern to advocacy, by offering an experiential learning opportunity and a welcoming space for diverse creatives and industry leaders who were previously absent.

I was honored to have the opportunity to join fellow DEI leaders Tasha Gilroy, Chief Equity Inclusion and Belonging Officer (VMLY&R); Tope Ajala, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Ogilvy); Christena Pyle, Chief Equity Officer, Americas (Dentsu); and Tony Hobley, Chief DE&I Officer (Omnicom Precision Marketing Group) at Inkwell Beach Cannes for a candid and meaningful panel discussion: ‘You Can’t Make This Sh*t Up’.

During the session, we shared where we have made significant process, where we’ve experienced challenges and what we need to do to continue to evolve our leadership roles and build more inclusive and equitable workplaces. The personal experiences shared had consistent themes around persistence, adaptability and commitment which are needed to bring about the changes that we all want to see.

Here are a few of my key takeaways:

With passion comes progress.

The majority of DE&I leaders are in their roles because they are passionate about the impact they can have and they are optimistic that progress will continue to be made. The increased representation of Black colleagues in the industry at Cannes this year was a heartening proof point of efforts to date – but we’re far from done and still have a lot of work to do.

Lived experience only gets you so far – business experience is an invaluable asset.

Having a lived experience as a member of a historically excluded community with a passion for change will only get you a part of the way to effective DE&I leadership. Many senior DE&I leaders also bring with them a decade or more of experience, and usually with broader business backgrounds in HR, Marketing and Operations. Many have owned a P&L which makes them particularly capable at tying DE&I to the overall business strategy.

Don’t Talk About It. Be About It!

CC:DC’s call to action certainly rings true. DE&I must be imbedded within an organization’s culture in order for it to be sustained. It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a safe and inclusive workplace – not just the Chief Diversity Officer or the CEO – everyone! We need to start the journey from wherever we are, create a north star of where we want to go, and hold our leaders, managers and employees accountable for making progress. One of the best supports for progress is data; this is extremely important for telling the story of the varying employee experiences that can live in the workplace and helps to create buy-in for both the problem and solution.

Reflecting on this year’s Cannes Festival through the lens of DE&I has been both insightful and inspiring to me. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned from my experience about creativity and innovation, in partnership with our leaders, Global DE+I Council and my Global Talent and DE&I team, to continue to lay the foundation for a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization and make sustained, meaningful change at H+K.