Women’s Leadership Panel 2020

By Katelyn Belden and Orielle Heilicher

As the unprecedented 2020 has brought us many challenges, it was time to dive deep at this year’s Ad 2 Women’s Leadership Panel. With the new virtual format, leaders in the advertising industry got together to talk about Difficult Conversations. 

Keynote speaker Lili Hall touched on her journey growing up and eventually leading her own independent creative agency, KNOCK, inc. Natasha Sinagoga, Shayna Walker, Surya Sukumar Rochel, Nicole Parrott-Wilson and Boriana Strzok made up the brilliant panel with the bright and bold Sarah Edwards as moderator. 

The event inspired many difficult, but important conversations in the advertising industry. The panel brought insight and passion in their discussion of diversity and inclusion, and the keynote speaker empowered those facing adversity. Below are the key takeaways.

Stop talking about what you’re going to do and do it.

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and several other Black American deaths at the hands of police, our country saw a surge in conversations about racism, white supremacy and white privilege. Panelist, Nicole Parrott-Wilson, emphasized that we have had plenty of time to discuss these issues, and now it is time to act upon it and #DoTheThing. Without taking direct action to fight against racism and white supremacy, these conversations lead to a dead end. Hiring diverse talent, recruiting at Historically black colleges and universities and other multi-cultural organizations, hosting events that promote inclusivity and preventing promotional barriers were methods discussed that the panel would like to see more of in the advertising industry. The groundwork has been laid out and now 2021 will be the time we see change.

Those who don’t care about diversity and inclusion are lost causes.

At this point in 2020, if organizations aren’t aware of inequality and aren’t trying to do better, they probably can’t be convinced. More importantly, it’s not worth the emotional tax to stay with a company that doesn’t share your same values because there are plenty of others out there that will. If quitting isn’t an option, the best practice to work with these people is to start with what you know, anchor yourself and just keep going. As Boriana Strzok put it, “When you stick to your values, you can make it work and you find people that will follow you along.”

Uplift minority groups, BIPOC, and the Women around you.

As we move into 2021 and we hope for a more diverse and empathic world, it is important to carry those values into your personal life. These can mean shopping local, small business and minority-owned. This can also mean responding to that LinkedIn message and giving each other the chance for human interaction. In today’s market, specifically within advertising and marketing, jobs are scarce, and everyone is battling for a foot in the door. Each person can help make that crack in the door a little wider. Support those people who come to you for advice. Take them for a virtual coffee and spend the time uplifting them and offering a path forward in whatever way that means. Shayna Walker said, “We’re all human beings, why wouldn’t you want others to enjoy the privilege you have?” Spread the love and support one another because that is the only way forward and up. 

It doesn’t have to be difficult.

The last year has taught us that there are many difficult conversations to have, but they are often met with resistance and strife. Lili Hall emphasized that this is not the way forward. These conversations can be had and met with open arms, pushing for understanding rather than alienation. We as humans are a lot more similar than we are different. We share the culture and community with those around us, so we must, as Lili said, find our commonness with others and rely on our empathy. Only with understanding can we really explore these difficult topics that do not need to be so difficult. 

A year in perspective.

This year has been a tough one for so many out there, and there is something that rang true for everyone on the panel: 2020 has been a year of difficult conversations that needed to be had. It took guts for the women on this year’s panel to talk about topics of race, gender and equality for all. These are not easy topics to discuss when it comes to virtual events, but they did it in style. 

Thank you to all who joined our discussion about these difficult conversations, and thank you to our panel and keynote speaker who made the topics really not so difficult in the end. We hope 2021 is filled with more difficult conversations on how we can make tangible change finally happen.