Championing the Drive for a More Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

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    Agency Life

  • Date:

    September 8, 2022

Championing the Drive for a More Diverse and Inclusive Workplace



Agency Life

For most of my years at Wray Ward, I would have told anyone that a welcoming and open spirit was ingrained in our DNA. While our agency didn’t have an official or purposeful approach to diversity and inclusion, it felt as if we were doing the right thing. And, for a long time, that seemed good.

However, when appalling events and the visible consequences of racism unfolded in 2020, fueling a social awakening that rippled across the nation, I quickly came to recognize that good is never good enough.

That shock to the system was a wakeup call for all of us at Wray Ward. Overnight, we realized we weren’t doing all we could to ensure racial equity and representation. Discrimination is a persavive problem, and we certainly didn’t believe a single company could construct a quick or complete fix.

But I’m a problem solver by nature. So, in the middle of a tense time, I became more determined than ever to help drive change.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, our leadership team scrutinized how to make Wray Ward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place for every employee who calls our agency home.

But we also acknowledged that doing what’s right goes well beyond a simple mission statement add-on or a single bullet in a presentation. Instead, doing what’s right requires an intentional and thoughtful approach. We believed that such a decisive stand could help change Wray Ward and our community for the better — forever.

So, we got to work.

Diversity and Inclusion: Where We’ve Been

First, we brought in experts to conduct D&I training with agency management, because a company’s leaders set the tone.

Together, we:

  • Evaluated our hiring process to identify gaps in our recruitment of diverse candidates

  • Expanded our FORM internship promotion to more universities, giving students of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn about the program and apply

  • Reviewed agency vendors to grow our support of diverse-owned small businesses

  • Leaned even harder into Wray Ward’s EmpoWWer program in order to maximize the positive impact of our service grants on Charlotte-area nonprofit organizations and underserved communities

During these training sessions, one lesson really hit home: To build and implement a successful D&I strategy, it’s critical to ensure that the effort doesn’t evolve as a top-down directive, with one voice dictating the direction.

This crucial insight led us to create a Wray Ward D&I council — not an initiative housed in human resources, but a diverse committee of employees who are empowered to set their own course and make meaningful decisions.

I remember thinking, “If this is really going to take hold and have an impact, we have to trust our people to be the voices of this place.”

Well, Wray Ward staff embraced the challenge. Following overwhelming interest, a group of nine employees became the coalition that will help chart the course, shape an already special culture and influence real change.

Diversity and Inclusion: Where We’re Going

Reflecting on all of this, I think we’ve taken giant steps toward making Wray Ward the diverse and inclusive place we want it to be. We’re taking care to not fall into the old traps of thinking we’ve got it solved — because really, we’ve just begun. But we’re making progress, we’re having conversations we've never had, and we’re moving in the right direction.

When we first came up with the idea of a D&I council, I didn’t view it as something that needed a formal name. But, being of a marketing mindset, the team understood the importance of branding and believed naming the group would put a stake in the ground for everything they hoped to accomplish.

Open House: The D&I Coalition at Wray Ward

The identity — Open House: The D&I Coalition at Wray Ward — gives this essential work a solid foundation. Furthermore, it represents the wants, needs and concerns of everyone at Wray Ward by embracing authenticity, belonging, fairness, openness and mutual respect.

In only a few months, I’ve witnessed this team’s eagerness to learn from each other. I’ve seen how much they love and care for one another. I’ve seen their commitment to making Wray Ward a supportive and inclusive environment in which all feel welcome.

I could go on and on about how impressed I’ve been with our people’s passion for this work — seriously, got another 30 minutes? But I think our coalition members can say it even better.

Barb Birge, Senior Writer: “I’ve always been passionate about bringing people of different races together in positive ways, helping them experience the riches that come from working with those from different backgrounds and perspectives. Through the years, I’ve come to broaden my view of differences beyond those of race or culture to include categories such as sexual orientation and more. I champion bridging differences, because I believe our world is small and the future depends on our success in understanding each other.”

Sarah Gregg, Senior Project Manager: “I am a D&I champion because I believe in building a safe and supportive workplace where people feel comfortable sharing their unique backgrounds, experiences and passions with one another. I believe that life is more fulfilling when we have authentic connections with people in our communities.”

Dave Haire, Design Director: “I volunteered to join the D&I council because I feel it’s important that we foster a welcoming, inclusive environment in the workplace for everyone who wishes to build a career at Wray Ward, regardless of their background. I believe that the more diverse voices we have within the fabric of our culture, the more we can realize our fullest potential as an agency.”

Kim Leaston, Public Relations Manager: “Times are changing, and so is the world around us. It is hard to believe that many industries and companies still think they can remain successful without hiring a more diverse and inclusive workforce — and developing and implementing the programs and policies to retain them. Asking for change may make people uncomfortable, but I’m willing to push for it if it helps someone else feel more comfortable and seen in the workplace.”

Rain Newman, Senior Producer: “I feel it’s important for everyone to feel welcome and accepted. I want to do my part to help Wray Ward continue to grow in this area, not just by making diverse hires but by making them feel like they are part of our team in every way.”

Mandy Simmons, Resourcing Director: “I grew up as an Asian American in Hawaii, a majority-minority state where diversity and inclusion were ingrained in our daily lives. Moving to Virginia as a young adult, I quickly noticed the lack of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. This was quite a culture shock. Now, as a mother of a biracial 6-year-old girl, I believe that any contribution I can make, however big or small, to create a more inclusive environment for future generations is worth my time and effort.”

Ryan Will, Client Engagement Associate Manager: “This work is profoundly important, and I want to make sure that we get it right the first time. I’m part of the LGBTQIA+ community and grew up witnessing transgressions against friends, family and neighbors. I am committed to ensuring that everyone has access to a seat at the table.”

Amanda Williams, Public Relations Director: “After living in Charlotte for 20 years, I have noticed how people of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences enrich our city and our everyday lives. I believe we can celebrate diversity and inclusion in our workplace and, by doing so, make Wray Ward the most welcoming and interesting company around.”

Chris Workman, Client Engagement Group Director: “D&I issues come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they can have a significant impact on our people at an individual and team level. Providing a safe space to identify, acknowledge and address these issues will not only make our work environment better, but also give us the tools to make stronger connections with each other.”

If you’re on the hunt for a workplace that celebrates diversity and inclusion, cultivates a culture rooted in respect and compassion, and empowers its employees to champion change, check out Wray Ward’s open positions and see if there’s a fit for you in our open house.

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