“A Clear Value In Seeing People Like Yourself in Higher Places”: Our Employees Share Their Experiences & Viewpoints on Representation

February 10, 2021

February in the United States marks Black History Month, a time to celebrate, immerse and educate ourselves about Black American culture and the contributions of so many Black Americans to our country. 

At FP, we continue our work cultivating an environment in which we celebrate, recognize, raise awareness and make an impact for all communities, and through this special blog series, we are sharing some of our employees’ experiences and perspectives of representation – representation in media and advertising, in businesses as a whole, and in society and culture.  

According to National Research Group’s 2020 #RepresentationMatters report, 2 in 3 Black Americans say they don’t see themselves or their culture represented on screen. Period. This statistic is staggering – and yet, media and film are just one piece of how our perceptions are formed, and one place where representation must be greatly improved. The FP team members below opened up about their own experiences and what inspires them, as well as what they hope for when it comes to a brighter future for representation, and the work it’s going to take to achieve it.   

Simone Jenkins, Senior Specialist, Display & Social 

We spoke with Simone about what it feels like when you don’t see yourself in the room, and the value of seeing yourself in higher places: 

On a positive note, I will say it gives me a sense of pride to be a representation of the Black community in the business world. But with that also comes an uncomfortable pressure to uphold that representation, and it can sometimes make me feel alone. While I am not saying that I can’t relate to my peers of all races, I see a clear value in seeing people like yourself in higher places. So, when I do have the opportunity to meet people in my career that happen to be the same background as me, I do feel a sense of pride and familiarity even if I don’t personally know them.”  

We also dug into Simone’s thoughts surrounding the efforts of brands and businesses to improve representation:  

“For brands, intention is important. They need to show they really do care and that the diversity measurements they put into practice will permanently be there and are not just for the community’s reaction.” 

We also asked: What is our responsibility in media and marketing to improve Representation for Black communities?  

“It is important for people to see Black people represented in all different types of life, because I think a lot of the prejudice that people have is based on the few images that they see. So, when they can see Black people in multi-dimensional roles, with different settings and careers, especially in advertising, I think it resonates and makes for a new generation of people with less prejudice.”  

Ami Grant, Director, Paid Media 

What brands, nonprofits or individuals inspire you in terms of their efforts to further equal and just Representation? How are they ensuring Representation is part of the conversation? How are they talking about or reflecting a focus on Representation? How are they themselves representing their communities? 

The last year was full of inspirational movements and individuals who fought for equal and just representation in their communities. One of the more notable activists was Stacey Abrams, whose tireless efforts to get out the vote in Georgia were pivotal in swinging the election to a Democratic president and giving Democrats control over the Senate in a once-red state.  

After Abrams lost the Governor’s race in 2018, she founded Fair Fight, a voting rights nonprofit with the aim of preventing voter suppression, increasing voter registration and educating young voters of color – all in service of increasing voter turnout on election day. Her concerns about voting rights began in 2013, when the Supreme Court substantially restricted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a result, nearly 10 percent of polling places in the state were cut, all targeted in Black areas. In response, Fair Fight successfully registered more than 1 million new voters in Georgia. Such efforts laid the groundwork for even greater organizing and turnout in 2020 and this year. 

Some of my favorite quotes from Abrams: 

Georgia is every bit as competitive as perennial battleground states. With one of the youngest and the most African American electorate of any competitive state, Georgia has demographic advantages that don’t exist in other states.  

Voter suppression happens anywhere. We changed not only the trajectory of Georgia, we changed the trajectory of the nation. Because our combined power shows that progress is not only possible, it is inevitable. 

Stacey Abrams is truly inspirational. She took a political loss and turned it into positive change, ensuring that Georgians had their voices heard at the polls.  

Chloé Cardenas, Senior Specialist, Display & Social  

We spoke with Chloé Cardenas about her experiences of Representation:  

“When it comes to my work in marketing, I don’t see myself often. I see this siloed, echo chamber of white experience. And even if the experience is well rounded, aware, compassionate, and empathetic, it’s not my exact experience. So, I do want to see more women in the board room, more women in the business world, and more women and men of color in general because we both lift each other up. 

“Representation and equity really go hand in hand but getting them to actually do that is the challenge we face today. 

We also discussed the challenges of unlearning implicit biases later on versus early in life, and how self esteem plays a large role in enabling ourselves to lift others up around us.  

We’re not taught to critically analyze ourselves or question our biases. This requires a huge overhaul in the way Americans are educated.  

You need to ensure there’s positive influences from the beginning. And there are a lot of great resources to unlearn implicit biases, but children aren’t really taught like this. Next generations should be growing up with an understand that there are people who don’t look or sound like me, and that’s great because accepting them is how I’m going to be better.

There’s also issues about self esteem that we don’t really address. If we feel good about ourselves and the bodies that we’re in, we’re in a much better position to lift others up around us without thinking twice about what they look like.  

If we’re really going to be judged by the content of our character, we can’t do that if we’re insecure. To change some of these problems, it takes a lot of work at the ground level. 

What about in the marketing world, when we think about targeting and personalizing, where does representation play a role? 

As marketers, a lot of our job is to elicit emotion. When we talk about targeting demographically – maybe there’s a misconception that science and data is cold, but it’s warm (or at least it should be)! We need to understand the psychology of people. Moving forward, when we think about executing strategy, data mining and personalization and cookies were a short step in trying to understand people, but soon we’re not going to be able to do that anymore. We need to understand how humans work and what drives emotion.  

It’s also important to remember that misrepresentation is just as bad as a lack of representation. 

We’ll be checking in with more of our employees throughout the remainder of the month. Stay tuned! 

 

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