Internal & external equity—with Michelle Ngome

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When companies portray diversity and inclusion in their marketing efforts, they have a responsibility to reflect those initiatives in their business practices—and not only when it is a convenient lever to pull.

In this second part of our discussion, Diversity Marketing Consultant Michelle Ngome discusses companies who are doing it right and how to pull integrity through, from external communication to internal practices. 

Read the interview

Jill McKenna: Hi everybody, thanks for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna, I’m the Campaign Marketing Manager here at Ruby, and I am delighted to be joined today by Michelle Ngome. Michelle is a diversity and inclusion marketing consultant, founder of the African-American Marketing Association, an author, and also a podcaster. Michelle, thank you for being here. Can you explain a little bit more about the many hats that you wear and what you do?

Michelle Ngome:
I’m an inclusive marketing consultant. I help large organizations with their diversity inclusion initiatives focusing on their marketing departments.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, that’s something I’m reading a lot about in trends going forward, millennials, but mostly Gen Z are going to be very particular in wanting to see the quantification of why one company is better than another to work for which we already see with B Corps to an extent, it’d be curious to see if they will expand what it means to be a B Corp, because they’re positioned to start doing that kind of work where people want to be aligned with things that match their values.

Michelle Ngome:
Absolutely, I left my job not too long ago, I was doing marketing at a law firm in-house, and I got to the point where I was doing some self-assessment and it’s like I have to go. And I had to make that decision but it was a hard decision because I think with any job there’s going to be things that you don’t like even in your business there’s things that you don’t like, but the work has to be done. But I think there’s a point where, “Okay, well what are my core values? What do I stand for? What do I represent?” And the hard thing for me to be so outspoken on diversity and inclusion, it’s like, “Alright Michelle, what are you going to do?” And I had to make that decision. I encourage small business owners and all leaders, minorities. They do look at the About Us page, they do look at the leadership page because once again, representation matters, but I also want to see do I have a chance to grow my career here and hold a leadership title? Whatever that may be.

So that is important, and I think that’s where the equity piece comes into. I think a lot of people don’t know what equity looks like and equity is really about how can I meet Jill’s needs? What are Jill’s goals? What’s important to her? And so equity looks different where you can have maybe a 25 year old woman who is fresh out of college, she’s going to be driven by money, maybe she wants to buy a house by the time she’s 30, so she’s looking for a high salary, and she’s going to go, go, go. Whereas you might have a woman that is 42 years old, her kids are young, obviously the pandemic is going on so it’s like, “Hey, can I work from home? Or can I work six hours versus eight hours?” And if you allow her to work those six hours, that’s what equity looks like.

And I think a lot of companies miss the mark because they have what I’m starting to call features and benefits, there are there, but people don’t know how to use them, or maybe that’s not important to them. If you’re a leader, you have to take time to figure out, “Okay, if I have 10 people on my team, what motivates each of these people?”

Jill McKenna:
That’s brilliant, it reminds me of the second one of these, I did these great interviews was in March, right as COVID was happening and it was with an HR expert, an EDI HR expert, and she said, “This is not a moment for equality, it’s a moment for equity. It’s a moment for meeting people, each individual where they’re at and not having a one size fits all approach to how we’re going to work from home.” And everything that’s happened subsequently since then, I keep thinking of that. It’s more and more companies are needing to react and build themselves in that way, and I’m glad you said that. So you mentioned intuitive, was it Intuitive Digital? And also Adidas as two examples of where changes have been implemented some big changes, which other companies do you see successfully embracing and executing inclusive marketing right now?

Michelle Ngome:
I think if we go back to June, Ben and Jerry’s is probably my favorite, they just, it took them a while, but when they came out, they came out swinging, and I think that’s what matters. Whereas I would rather have a company take a couple of days and get it right versus rushing and catching the social media trend and get it wrong. So during that time, I definitely saw a few bad BLM statements, some companies took it down and the screenshots where it went viral, so you have to be careful when it comes to diversity and inclusion because there’s so many audiences to cater to. But the reason why I like Ben and Jerry’s so much is because diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in their culture, so if you go to their website, they have numerous blog posts on diversity, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, marriage, mass incarceration. So on the outside looking in, it’s like it was nothing for them to come up with a statement because they’re already practicing this.

And I think that’s the importance of company culture and inclusion, having those people on your team because if you included us earlier, you wouldn’t be in this problem today. So it’s like now companies are scraping, what can I do? I got to do something and it’s out of your norm because it’s out of your company culture. So it makes it hard, but obviously D&I is hot right now, and even finding the right consultant can be tricky, but you have to find ways to stay motivated, of course, I think McDonald’s, Chase, Nike does a good job, that can be a love-hate relationship for some people. Toyota is another one, but they constantly advertise diverse campaigns and messages, when you go to the Chase app, there’s no telling what couple you’re going to see on that app, it can be a white couple, it could be a black man holding the baby in the air, it can be a Latinx couple in front of their brand new home. So it’s like you’d have to have those images and keep them in rotation because you’re catering to a wide spread of people.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, and those companies know it for sure because they’re so large, right? They’ve been doing this work for so long. Thank you so much.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

Jill McKenna:
I have just enjoyed myself so much, I’m so much appreciative of your time, and if people want to find out more about you where can they go?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes., is my company. You can pretty much find me, first and last name, Michelle Ngome, N-G-O-M-E. I’ll say follow me on Instagram for the cool stuff, Facebook for the real stuff, and LinkedIn for the professional stuff.

Jill McKenna:
Perfect. Thank you so much, thanks for your time.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

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