Tackling Diversity in the Marketing World

There were 15 speakers. Well, for me, that event was it. There’s nothing like seeing your personal bias on paper. – Byron Katie Male privilege From my standpoint, we always went out and found the best experts on the planet and rocked an amazing Content Marketing World. Recognition of the problem After that moment, I began to notice things (or maybe not ignore things) for the first time, especially the lack of speaker diversity at events I attended. This probably won’t surprise you, but most of the people who own and run marketing events worldwide are white men. Put yourself in a position to listen and adapt You don’t just want women and minorities standing up there parroting the same thing that white men would be saying. Reach out – As I stated, I’m actively reaching out to a number of women and people of color to help me in this effort. They, along with the CMI team (and others), are developing a pool of speakers that will help us reach our goals. If you would like to recommend someone to speak at Content Marketing World, or would like to nominate yourself, please use this submission form.

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tackling-diversity-marketing

In December 2014, I was invited to give a keynote talk at a digital marketing event in Europe. There were 15 speakers. All white men.

When I realized that all the education and training was being provided by only white men, I actually became physically ill. Simply put, it felt wrong to be part of an event like this.

Have you ever experienced something that made you look at the world in a different way?

Well, for me, that event was it.

Upon arriving back at the office, I was compelled to examine my personal behavior. At that time, I was in planning mode for Content Marketing World 2015 (I’m responsible for the agenda each year). I went to the 2014 speaker list and performed a simple speaker count.

There’s nothing like seeing your personal bias on paper. Ouch!

You either believe what you think or you question it. There’s no other choice. – Byron Katie

Male privilege

From my standpoint, we always went out and found the best experts on the planet and rocked an amazing Content Marketing World. But in truth, I went out and found the best experts in my network … and my network was made up of mostly white men.

Male privilege was alive and well, and living inside me. Tin Geber perhaps says it best:

My male privilege happened. Or, more precisely, my lack of recognition of the fact that male privilege is real, and it favors me and others like me. No matter if we want it or not … The amount of knowledge I can reach, the wealth of insight I can gain, the quality of skills I can count on … they are all filtered by implicit bias. It’s not only gender either: race, language, culture, and other superficial differences can effectively block us in echo chambers … And of course, as biases do, the gender bias is a self-affirming closed loop: the more it remains unchecked, the more it tightens the screws on its own casket.

Recognition of the problem

After that moment, I began to notice things (or maybe not ignore things) for the first time, especially the lack of speaker diversity at events I attended. This probably won’t surprise you, but most of the people who own and run marketing events worldwide are white men. It was like a bunch of “me’s” out there living in a white male world.

It was also the first time that I believed we were doing a disservice to the audience at Content Marketing World. To create the best possible attendee experience, it is our responsibility to get expertise and experiences from everywhere we possibly can. If we didn’t, the attendees would see a limited view as to what was really going on in marketing and communication. A lack of diversity was a falsehood that we were helping to project.

In 2015, we did better:

But yet, still pretty sad.

That year, and into 2016, I committed to going further outside of my network. I made an effort to get more of the CMI staff involved in the speaker selection process (70% of the CMI team are women). I increased my research into diverse speakers, watching more female speakers and speakers of color while traveling to other events, and started to open up and talk more about these issues with the members of the CMI team. We could no longer simply rely on voluntary speaker submissions…

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