The 14th Annual Rosoff Awards, presented by the Ad Club, recognize companies that have meaningful diversity, mentoring, and inclusion programs and was held (fittingly) at the John F. Kennedy Library this week. In addition, $110,000 worth of scholarships were presented to eleven gifted and diverse high school students - “Rosoff Scholars” - who will be mentored by a sponsored company throughout their four years of college.
Given that the advertising industry has been challenged with increasing its diversity practices, I am proud of the Ad Club for leading the way. As Kathy Kiely, President of the Ad Club pointed out in her introduction of the Rosoff Awards, Boston has a rich history of Human Rights firsts and we are a city that is arguably one of the most tolerant places to live in America.
Our Keynote speaker, Harvard Business School professor David Thomas , author of “Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America” talked about applying business practices to diversity. In other words, diversity initiatives should not simply be an HR program, they should be woven through a company’s strategic business plan.
Some of Thomas’s thought provoking points included (paraphrased):
In order for an organization be diverse and support differences in the workplace, executive leadership needs to form relationships that are transformative.
We want a diverse workforce, but are not always willing to learn from our diverse employees.
With these points in mind, I challenge my fellow CEOs:
Get out of your comfort zone and get to know a business colleague or form a new business relationship with someone different - not the same people you see at every event. Learn from the experience. Shake things up.
Be inspired by the companies that were honored by the Rosoff Awards and other companies that work hard to support diversity, not only because it is the right thing to do, but a smart business decision in the long run. Use the Rosoff Awards as a model in your city.
Show support for programs like the Rosoff Awards through sponsorship, volunteering and mentoring - offer up what your company does best. Show your employees that these types of programs matter and encourage their participation (setting an example from the top down is the best way).
The Ad Club has stepped up its commitment to fostering diversity since the Rosoff Awards were founded 14 years ago. How can you do your part?