By Rinki Mukherjee
This year, I had the opportunity to drive conversations and actions to provide the groundwork for positive results towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the beginning of the year, then President-Elect of AMA Houston, Erika Waters, reached out to me to determine my interest in serving the AMA Houston board during its 2019–2020 term. I had served on the communications team for a few years and was looking for a way to advance the chapter as well as bring my commitment to diversity to a new role. I expressed my desire to enhance and project the inclusive environment that AMA Houston has and encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in representation among membership, event attendees, and board members.
Erika was equally passionate about bringing this idea to fruition. She wanted to ensure that AMA Houston as an organization was adequately represented by a diverse set of individuals who accurately represent the diverse professional community in Houston. Erika announced her commitment (to the newly formed board) towards this initiative with a lot of enthusiasm:
“I’m proud that AMA Houston is taking a step towards improving our member experience by ensuring we are a diverse and inclusive organization.”
Since Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, it is our duty to reflect and celebrate what it means to be a professional in this market.
How does diversity and inclusion begin?
According to Candice Castillo, President of Prospanica Houston chapter and Director of Family and Community Engagement in K-12 Education:
“Diversity and inclusion must start with education as the key influencer and driver of society in general, and as such, it has the power and responsibility to create and sustain an equitable ecosystem that includes access for all of us. That means including all the different traits that make up our society—different thoughts, races, cultures, genders, faith beliefs, learning abilities, economic status, demographics, etc. Education is power, and we must empower others especially those communities that have been underserved for so long, to create thriving citizens and impact the world in a more meaningful and equitable manner that benefits every single one of its members.”
We took Castillo’s words to heart and created opportunities for our members to explore how their unique traits intersect the marketing industry.
AMA Houston’s Commitment to Diversity
Diversity and Inclusion Topics in Programming
Since diversity and inclusion starts with education, the best way for AMA Houston to make an impact was through its programming. The AMA Houston team worked hard to put forward topics and speakers with diversity and inclusion in mind. October 2019 was designated as diversity and inclusion month in programming. The first event was a luncheon which covered a general topic of diversity and inclusion. Rey Ocañas, Director of Communications and Responsible Business at BBVA USA, shared some actionable steps his company took in order to achieve a perfect score of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index*. Rey proved how investing in diversity had a positive impact on company culture and profit:
“We put a premium on being diverse and inclusive in every corner of our business because we know that it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also smart business. It allows us to attract the most creative thinkers, the most innovative suppliers, and it gives us a competitive advantage in today’s age of opportunity.”
The next event that had diversity and inclusion as one of its key themes was the 2019 Marketing Edge conference. The opening keynote speaker was Alex Knoll, a 14-year-old who developed and marketed the Ability App through crowdsourcing. This app helps people with any type of cognitive, hearing, vision, and/or mobility disability and their caregivers navigate public spaces and search for specific disability-friendly features, services, and employment. His focus was on accessibility in the digital space. He summed up his thought process in this quote:
“Everyone should have access. Everyone should be included. It’s the right thing to do!”
The closing keynote session was by Hernan Tagliani, President and Founder of The Group Advertising and author of The Hispanic Market for Corporate America. How to Make your Brand Culturally Relevant. Last, but not least, the third event in October was our Academy event: More than a Rainbow: Marketing to the LGBTQ Community. A group of panelists openly discussed their successes and challenges marketing to the LGBTQ community.
Partnering with Universities
Since DEI begins with education, AMA Houston renewed its commitment to partner with university students and find out ways in which the chapter could help the students who already represent the rich diversity of the greater Houston area. Since the students are already equipped with the knowledge and ideas of DEI, this partnership will bring some fresh ideas of DEI to the table. We’ve already had success in engaging with students as they bring in a boost of energy into our organization. We are always exploring new ways through which we can build and sustain our partnership even more.
Partnering with Local Organizations
While AMA Houston has a strong outreach in the marketing community in general, there is always an opportunity to reach out to professionals who have a focused skillset in the field of marketing. We would like to allow every individual an opportunity to be part of the marketing community, and this will be possible by partnering with other local organizations that also serve the marketing community. Our initial steps in such partnerships have received a positive response. We frequently host partnership events and are looking forward to more ways to collaborate.
We’ve come a long way in the DEI zone in less than six months. What began as a simple conversation, blossomed into multiple events, partnerships, and more. We are also partnering with other AMA chapters across the country to move this conversation even further. We are looking into the possibility of including metrics to measure our progress through customized automated software. This will hold us accountable and will help us take a quantitative approach to measuring and tracking our DEI and our goals. As time passes, the intentionality of our DEI efforts will be reflected in our work and its impact within the chapter and the community. As marketers, our is to connect customers to the product/idea that helps us grow. Through DEI efforts, AMA Houston is taking measures to create these bonds. Help us stay true to our goals by sharing what DEI in the field of marketing means to you.
* Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2019 Corporate Equality Index is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees.
Rinki Mukherjee is an experienced visual designer and has an eye for all things creative. She currently works as a Design QC Specialist/Graphic Designer for Cella Studios at Chevron. She is a strong advocate about inclusion in the workforce and is a believer in giving back to the community. She volunteers in multiple organizations where education is the conduit for personal growth and success. She has an MBA from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and she recently completed her Diversity Management certificate course from the University of Dallas.