How can we create open, safe work environments for Black professionals to thrive?
In honor of Black History Month, Zeta and Mediahub, an award-winning global creative media agency, recently teamed up for a frank discussion on inclusivity in the MarTech and AdTech industry.
The panel, “Closing the Inclusivity Gap in MarTech and AdTech,” was hosted by Mediahub and Zeta’s Bridge Builders, an employee resource community that aims to inspire change by empowering and improving representation in the Black community. The dynamic group of panelists included:
- Ian Ali, Group VP, National Strategic and Multicultural Sales; Co-chair of Bridge Builders at Zeta
- Keith Byam, Executive Director at MVP
- Alejandro Clabiorne, EVP/Executive Director at Mediahub
- Erica Davis, Director of Operations at SuitUp
- Dr. Alison Munsch, Assistant Professor at Iona College
- Ray Reyes, Managing Director at The Opportunity Network
- Efeohe Suleman, Strategy Solutions Consultant at Zeta
In true Zeta fashion, the panel began with data: today, Black talent make up only 7.4% in the tech industry, and even less in MarTech and AdTech—just 5.9%. Despite active recruitment, there’s also a lack of retention. “Black professionals are leaving jobs in tech because they do not feel welcome. They feel they don’t have a sense of community,” according to Ian Ali.
How can companies like Zeta and Mediahub support Black professionals to learn about jobs in MarTech/AdTech, be actively recruited, and grow within these industries? Below are the three lessons we learned:
1. The Power of Mentorships
While still in college last year, Efeohe Suleman was looking for opportunities to enter the tech space. She was introduced to Zeta Bridge Builders co-chairs, Ian Ali and Stephen George, through The Boyd Initiative, an organization that helps young Black professionals discover careers in advertising and media.
“Not only was I looking for community within my career, but I was looking for proof that people from the Black community had opportunities to accelerate their careers—Ian and Stephen made that obtainable for me.”
Efeohe was eventually connected with Stephen to be her mentor. The mentorship led her to an internship and full-time position at Zeta. As a member of Bridge Builders, she will also play a crucial role in shaping future internship programs at the company, including the upcoming Mediahub & Zeta summer internship swap program. She is a true success story of a young, bright Black professional who joined the tech industry—and stayed—thanks to a good mentor.
2. It’s Not About Color, It’s About Culture
Offering mentorships is one thing—but selling it is another, said Keith Byam of MVP, who focuses on career development for Black students and students of color. He discussed the challenges of justifying the value of mentorships, and how finding mentors who represent the communities they serve and who understand their culture can be a critical selling point.
He went on to quote Denzel Washington on why the movie Fences needed a Black director: “It’s not color, it’s culture.” Black professionals need mentors who have similar identities or similar walks of life that mirror theirs. Knowing the barriers that students experience day to day and having this deep cultural competence is crucial.
3. Understanding the Challenges to Create a Safe, Open Environment
How could we ensure these mentees not only secure spots in tech positions, but stay?
It’s all about communication, said Ray Reyes of The Opportunity Network. He has seen cases where supervisors/managers would skip weekly check-ins with interns and send them out into the world without much preparation. Another area that has been neglected, he noted, is the concept of psychological safety. Providing a safe and open environment, checking in, and offering constructive feedback can make all the difference in guiding young Black professionals toward opportunity and growth.
Meanwhile, Dr. Munsch believes the struggles young Black professionals face and the reason they make up such a small percentage in the tech industry is rooted in something deeper. “The challenges for Black students when it comes to college are a result of the unfortunate systemic racism and discrimination we experienced throughout the history of our country,” she said. “Gaining access to funding for college is the first hurdle they face,” she said. Finding a good mentor and navigating the culture of a company comes next.
Making a Difference, Together
It’s no secret that the tech industry lacks diversity—and we want to change that. But we can’t do it alone. In the past two years, Zeta’s Bridge Builders has partnered with organizations like The Opportunity Network, MVP, and SuitUp to prepare Black professionals for successful careers in tech and beyond. Change is happening, one step at a time, and together we are moving the needle to closing the inclusivity gap in MarTech and AdTech. Click here for more information on Bridge Builders.