Wunderman Thompson has appointed Ezinne Okoro as its first global chief inclusion, equity and diversity officer.
In the newly created role, Okoro will report directly to Wunderman Thompson global CEO Mel Edwards. She will set the agency’s vision and strategy for creating a more inclusive workplace in 90 markets across the globe.
Okoro was previously the first inclusion and diversity officer for fast-fashion retailer H&M North America. She was invited to join Wunderman Thompson when the agency began pulling together an internal framework to address equity and inclusiveness as a cohesive global effort.
As the team saw the volume of work required, it realized it needed an executive to lead the initiative in order to stay truly committed.
“There have been a lot of conversations with the executive committee as to what the goals and commitments are,” Okoro said, “but they wanted to find someone who could completely own it.”
Okoro will hire a team and set a budget to support her implementation of long-term strategic plans to make the agency’s communications, training programs and overall culture more inclusive. “That shows a level of commitment that sometimes you don't see with other companies,” she said.
She will start by looking internally to understand the structures and systems in place at the agency that prevent equity and inclusiveness, while assessing where the agency has already made progress across different markets.
Focus will vary depending on what issues are most prevalent in a given market. Ageism and gender disparity is a major problem in Asia, for example, whereas representation and inclusiveness of BIPOC employees is a key issue in the United States.
“If I look at diversity in Nigeria, it's going to look very different from diversity in the U.S.,” Okoro said. “Understanding the nuances of each country will be critical.”
A core focus across the board will be to understand why diversity tapers off after the junior and mid-level. “What is causing that breakdown and what can we do better as a company to close that gap?” she said.
Okoro, who was a people and change management executive at Viacom for 12 years, will also seek to understand how employees are promoted within the agency and selected for client work and accounts. Ultimately, making that a more diverse and inclusive process will create better work for clients.
“It is looking at training and what the career journey looks like for people,” she said. “And, externally, are we challenging clients to think bigger about the services they offer?”
Okoro will also collaborate with Wunderman Thompson parent company WPP, which recently committed $30 million to combating racism internally and in partnership with external organizations over the next three years.
“We have the same goals, but the specific actions might be different because of the makeup of that particular business,” she said. “I plan to get the board's support and insight and think about how we support them.”
During her time at H&M, Okoro pushed the fashion and beauty industry to become more diverse and inclusive as a whole. She hopes to do the same at Wunderman Thompson for the advertising industry, which still has predominantly white male leadership.
“How do we use big global companies to set an example of what it can look like for everyone?” Okoro said.
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.com)