Q&A with Nitin Mantri, Group CEO of Avian WE


                  

1) Thank you for your engagement with the Diversity Action Alliance. Could you let our readers know what about our commitment resonated the most with you and inspired your engagement?

Achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) goals demand less talk and more action. What the coalition will do is bring in the much-needed accountability factor in diversity debates and act as a catalyst for change with its tangible actions. I am particularly impressed and hopeful about the coalition’s commitment to tracking diversity data. Data is crucial in our fight against discrimination for it will help us gauge our progress, restructure our strategies, and pursue our goals more proactively and eventually, create a culture of dignity, respect, and belonging. I hope, as time goes by, more PR leaders will join the alliance and help create a fair-minded industry.

2) What top three pieces of advice would you like to share with the communications industry around embracing and activating better DE&I initiatives?

  • Make DE&I your mission & purpose: DE&I cannot be just a box to tick off. If we want to build a diverse and inclusive industry, we need to back our DE&I initiatives with conviction, passion, and leadership commitment. Industry bodies must frame strict rules to regulate DE&I practices in their member firms. DE&I has to be at the core of everything the industry does: it must be in the DNA of every PR firm, embedded in its values and culture, and used as a lens for every decision from strategy to recruitment.

  • Create a safe and supportive work environment:  Our work does not end with hiring qualified people from diverse backgrounds. We must also create a culture of collaboration where they feel comfortable and respected. And this can be made possible only when DE&I goals belong to everyone in an organization: from the C-suite to interns. So, identify the unconscious bias and blind spots, root them out and make room for everyone. Involve employees in DE&I initiatives and solutions. Most importantly, give everyone a chance to speak and be heard. And listen with empathy.

  • Activate a movement: The industry should support, both principally and financially, organizations that represent people from diverse background. Groups like these can connect us to a wide pool of eligible candidates. Take it a notch higher and proactively connect with brands that prioritize diversity. Advice your existing clients to follow inclusive and equitable business practices. This way we will eventually start a movement of zero tolerance towards hate and discrimination.

3) Out of recruitment, retention, and representation, where do we lack the most as an industry and how can we correct that?

We lack in all the three areas. On one hand, there is poor awareness about our profession among ethnic communities and on the other, our industry has not pushed for equal representation with the required aggression. To correct this mistake, every PR firm should make diversity a part of their business model. A lot of things will fall in place once we do that.

Further, it is not enough to just write on your website that the company provides equal opportunity and does not discriminate because of age, race, colour and so on, and yet have a homogenized workforce. Back up those words with actions. Raise awareness about our profession through targeted recruitment campaigns - reach out to underrepresented communities in schools and colleges and support forums that work for equal rights, let your leadership talk about DE&I – the list goes on and on.  Such activities will make people from different backgrounds aware of our profession, make them feel valued and give them the confidence to work with us.

In the hiring stage, ensure even distribution of people from diverse backgrounds – from the intern to the senior management. Retention will depend on whether you have created a collaborative and empathetic organizational culture. Everyone must have the same chance to speak and be heard. Only then will they want to be a part of our industry.

4) Have you/ someone you know made any conscious attempts to inspire change around DE&I among your circle or colleagues? Alternatively, are there any notable recent attempts made by an organization around DE&I that has inspired you? Please provide an example.

First, let me explain what diversity means in my market – India. In my country, discrimination is not based on colour as we are all brown. So, diversity refers to religion, caste, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. I have always taken conscious steps to promote diversity in my company and have developed initiatives to further inclusion. We have promoted equality by having no religion and caste columns in our employee contracts. Additionally, taken the lead in the fight for gender diversity and inclusion by having female to male employees at 60:40 and have no gender gap in our salaries. Another step we’ve taken is by having LGBTQ representation at the leadership level. We celebrate Pride Month every year and participated in Asia’s first and biggest LGBTI conference, job fair and marketplace called Rise – Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity this year. The Human Rights Campaign has given WE a perfect score two years in a row on its Corporate Equality Index, naming us a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality which we are extremely proud of.

 5) What is the one actionable message that you want to leave your readers with today? Feel free to also include a quote that you find interesting.

It is terrific that we are talking about DE&I as action begins with discussion. I am glad to see targeted measures being taken to address the gaps. We need to add ways to measure the results on these steps to keep ourselves accountable. However, we need to continue to push for diversity and inclusion across the industry. Our work has just begun and we must keep pushing till we bridge all differences and build strong communities where everyone is treated fairly.

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