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A Chat With Some of Acronym’s Women Leaders For Women’s History Month

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Acronym was formed in 1995, and women have held leadership positions here from the start.  Flash forward 27 years, and you see an agency that has a workforce in North America that is 52% women (48% on a global basis). In addition, the majority of Acronym’s Senior Leadership Team (63%) is made up of women. Building on this legacy of empowered women, and in honor of Women’s History Month, we decided to ask some of these women to share some of their own experiences building successful careers and what advice they have to offer others.

Have you worked with a female business mentor?  If so, what were some of the lessons she taught you?

Kristen Gonzalez, EVP, Agency Operations, stated that she has “had informal business mentors who gently course-corrected me when they were aware of ways in which I was undermining myself. Even those who were not that gentle taught me some great lessons. Sometimes growth is painful, but the reward is in applying those lessons forward and the results eventually speak for themselves. I’m as grateful for the lessons in what not to do as I am for those in what to do.” 

Kristen then spoke of some of the challenges she has faced, saying “It’s hard for me to say that the challenges I’ve faced personally have directly been about gender. I’ve worked with many men who were solid advocates for me and treated me with respect and consideration in each encounter. Women are often expected to be in opposition to each other at work and in personal relationships; it’s a competition mindset that does not need to be there. We can all be better advocates for each other. In fact, the women I work with every day here at Acronym inspire me. Age, experience, and title are not always correlated with being inspiring. You can find great people doing great things at all levels of an organization.” 

Kristen closed with a valuable piece of advice for all women in the workforce, recommending that they “adopt a lifelong learner mindset. When you focus on learning as much as you can, you move your perspective from one of lacking to one of gaining.”

What women inspire you and why?

Jennifer Jones-Mitchell, SVP, Marketing & Communications said, “The first and most enduring inspiration is my mom. She was an entrepreneur when women weren’t allowed to be business owners in the U.S. At a time when women couldn’t even have a credit card without their husband’s or father’s permission, she opened and ran a small chain of home décor stores. She endured unbelievable indignities on merchandising trips and overcame so many obstacles as she built her career as a successful retailer. I once asked her why she didn’t protest in the streets for women’s rights in the 1970s and her answer was, ‘I wasn’t about to ask for permission to start my own business. I just did it.’ It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the confidence and courage she had.”

Jennifer explained why that kind of confidence and courage matters by stating “one lesson I come back to often is that fear is good. Early in my career, I’d been successful in a position for a few years when I had the opportunity to take on a larger role. I told one of my mentors I was a little scared to leave the comfort of my existing position for this new challenge. She said, ‘if it makes you scared to do it, then it’s worth doing because that means you are growing.’ I followed her advice and haven’t looked back since. This advice drives me to embrace change, to try new tactics and explore future trends. No one learns anything new doing the same things they’ve always done. No one forges new paths by being comfortable. Fear is good. Fear drives us to succeed. That fear you feel when taking on a new challenge is how you know it’s worthwhile.”

Jennifer also added this final piece of advice for other professional women. “Don’t water-down your sentences with words like ‘just,’ ‘actually,’ maybe,’ or ‘sort-of.’ Some examples include ‘I just want to add a thought,’ ‘I actually have a question,’ ‘That sort-of makes me uncomfortable’ or ‘Maybe you should leave.’ These modifiers undermine what we are really saying. And remember to promote yourself. So often, women are taught it’s impolite to tout our talent, experience, and success. It’s not. It’s good business. Get your voice out there – create a podcast, write articles about industry trends, speak at events – advocate for yourself. Finally, know your own worth and learn to negotiate for what you deserve.”

What challenges do you think women face because of their gender?

Stephanie Hart, EVP and GM, Digital Analytics said, “The past few years have highlighted that there are still many parts of the world and workplace that allow misogyny and a ‘boys club’ mentality. Every person who speaks out against even a small transgression helps to chip away at discrimination and improve the world for all women. Just because Acronym is such a safe environment, we can’t pretend that things that happen in politics and the media don’t impact the way women are treated daily elsewhere.”

But there is a lot that women can do to overcome and even preemptively address these challenges. Stephanie explains, “I’ve worked with and for many wonderful women throughout my career who have taught me lessons such as listen before you speak, stand your ground with a smile, embrace challenges and change, and maintain your own credit history. One of the biggest myths that needs to be broken is held by women – that they need to be 100% prepared and able to accept a new professional challenge. I see under-qualified men winging it all the time while well-qualified women sit back and doubt themselves. Of course, this is a massive generalization, but I think more women need to have the confidence to fail.”

Finally, Stephanie offers this advice, “Don’t be apologetic because you must balance life and work. Don’t think that this inevitable balancing act makes you less valuable in the workplace.”

When or how do you feel most empowered?

Sara Gould, VP, Human Resources says”I feel most empowered professionally when I can do what I do best and am trusted. When I don’t have to push for a seat at the table, but I am looked for and asked to fill the needed space, not because of my gender identity but because of the skills and knowledge that I provide.”

Nonetheless, there are still some inherent hurdles to overcome when achieving that sense of empowerment. Sara explains, “Being a woman and in Human Resources, I get hit twice with stereotypes. It is assumed I am sensitive and just focus on Harmony vs. Strategy. My response is, ‘yes, I am sensitive, and what of it?’ I am a bit of an empath and being in HR with that ability is a blessing and a curse as it can be exhausting. I struggle with why men and women are looked at differently when they express emotion in the workplace.  For example,  a guy expresses anger at work by yelling it gets brushed under the rug but, if a woman cries, she is shamed. Why is one emotion deemed better or worse than another? Emotion is real and should be acknowledged. I also believe in a Richard Branson quote, ‘the customer doesn’t come first, your employees do, because if you take care of them, they will take care of your customers.’ Science has caught up and now shows that engaged people who feel cared for do more than what is expected at work vs. those who are treated like faceless minions.”

This is when it’s important to build a strong support network. Sara continues, “There was a female leader at my last company who gave me great advice when I was struggling with my own management line. She said you need to have your own Board of Directors – each person serves a different role. Each teaches you something. Some hug you when you need it, some kick you in the butt when you need it, and all push you to be the best version of you, and not to be something else.”

Sara concludes with this advice, “Be you and be all of you. Harness your power for good.  Support worthy people that are around you regardless of who or what they are. There is enough room at the table and light on the professional ladder for all of us. Also, stop saying sorry if you didn’t do anything wrong! But if you did, own it.”

What advice do you have for other professional women?

Farah Sadiq, EVP and GM International says, “Over the years there have been so many leaders who have paved the way to impact and define social equality. In today’s context, I am inspired by the ideology and strength of the younger generation who are spokespeople for today’s challenges – Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Thandiwe Abdullah and many more who have stood up and are fighting for a better and more sustainable future. In a world where we can be anything we want, choose to be kind. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with positivity and a team spirit.”

Joanna Cohen, VP, Integrated Media adds, “Find your voice! All too often competent professionals hesitate to contribute; the fear of making a mistake can be a powerful deterrent to participation. I hope that women, and men, will rely on their education and expertise and share their insights and recommendations. If we are going to have a seat at the leadership table we need to demonstrate, without hesitation or fear, our ability to make valuable contributions to the conversation.”

Gellena Lukats, Director, Paid Social reminds us, “If you’re in a room, make sure you’re heard. If you’re placed in an important meeting, there’s a reason, and if you’re trusted to be in a role, own it and make sure people know your worth, especially if you’re the only woman in the room. There are a lot of stereotypes of what women should be – be professional, kind, and challenge yourself to lead by example. Don’t change your management style, personality, or approach because of what you think you need to be, but challenge yourself to be the best professional version of yourself possible.”

Mary Sutter, Director, Social Media adds, “I think we are very fortunate at Acronym in that women aren’t underestimated off the cuff. In a lot of industries, women are underestimated. I’ve experienced it in the past and hope I don’t experience it again in the future, but know that it could happen. As such, I always work my butt off because I know as a woman, I have to prove myself. My advice to other women is ’stand up for yourself. But at the same time, don’t sweat things that maybe don’t matter so much.’

Let us know if you have any experiences or advice to share! We’d love to hear from you. And, in the meantime, let’s celebrate all the contributions women make to our world, from groundbreaking inventions to global diplomacy, business leadership and more. Happy Women’s History Month!

On National Coming Out Day, Our Chief Diversity Officer Shares His Story

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Today, October 11th is National Coming Out Day in the United States. This day was created in 1988 to raise awareness for and support of individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.

As an NGLCC-certified LGBTBE, this is a special day for Acronym. So, we decided to interview our Chief People and Diversity Officer, Irwin Drucker about his own experience coming out as a gay man and what this day means to him.

Irwin Drucker
Chief People & Diversity Officer, Acronym

What does National Coming Out Day mean to you? 

Coming out is a process, and it differs for everyone.  National Coming Out Day was created as a “safe space” for people to use, when they are ready, to share who they are with those they choose, safe in the knowledge that countless others will be having similar conversations with loved ones on the very same day.

When did you “come out?” What prompted it? 

That’s a much more complicated question than it appears, because, like many other LGBT people, I “came out” a number of times, to different audiences. 

I first came out to my family in 1985, when I was 26, and I was coming back to New York for Thanksgiving with my family. I had moved to Florida for a job two years before, and recently met Jerry, my first long-term partner. So two months prior to Thanksgiving, I flew up to New York for the Jewish New Year, and broke the news. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, so imagine my surprise when my Mom literally started laughing and said “Irwin, I’ve known that since you were 5 years old!” Dad didn’t have a clue, but was completely cool from day one. And my sister was supportive from the first minute I told her. All three of them continue to be amazing in their love and support, both of me individually, and of the LGBTQ Rights movement, as well. 

I officially “came out” at work a few years later, although I had told some co-workers from day one of my employment at IBM. Given that IBM in the 1980s was nothing like the IBM of today, I really had no idea what to expect. Jerry had tested positive for HIV in 1986, and by 1989 he was beginning to have the symptoms of full-blown AIDS. I needed to take a lot of time off to drive him to doctor appointments, and my work was beginning to suffer. I realized that the only way I could get the support I needed at work, and not risk losing my job, was to officially “come out” and also share the truth about Jerry, at a time when AIDS still had a HUGE stigma. Once again, good fortune had given me an amazing manager, Laura Weber, who couldn’t have been more supportive. I don’t know how I could have coped with the two years of Jerry’s illness and death if I hadn’t been able to be open and honest with everyone at work about how much I was going through.

What was that experience like? 

In both of the instances I described, it truly felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  Prior to coming out, most people feel, as did I, that they are unique in going through the process. It’s only afterward that we realize how many others have endured a very similar experience.

What should those in the process of making a decision to come out know? 

Hmmmm … I guess there are a few important things to know. FIRST, know that your life will never be the same again.  For me, that was a good thing, because I received, and continue to receive, a tremendous amount of love, support and encouragement. In fact, had I remained closeted, I would never had the opportunities I did to create change and push for LGBTQ equality! SECOND, know that even if it doesn’t go well (sadly, I’ve lost count of the number of friends who were initially completely rejected by their family and friends) and you wish you had remained closeted, you will soon realize that it was still the best thing you could have ever done. Coming Out is truly giving yourself a gift – the gift of freedom! Until you come out, you can’t really live your life as your full and complete self. Once you are able to do that, trust me, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!! And finally, THIRD, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! If you’re struggling with coming out, talk to someone; it really makes the whole process so much easier!

Where can individuals find the encouragement and support they need to make this decision? 

OMG, there are SO MANY places to get support now. A lot depends on the person’s age. If you’re still in High School (or younger), many public school systems have gay-straight alliances that create safe spaces for students to come out.  And almost all colleges do, too. Many religious denominations have also incorporated LGBTQ safety into their youth programs. And there are countless national organizations in place to help, too, including:

  • PFLAG: PFLAG is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies.
  • GLSEN: Founded by a group of teachers, GLSEN’s mission is to ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
  • GLAAD: For over 30 years, has been at the forefront of cultural change, accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community.
  • Out and Equal: Out & Equal is the premier organization working exclusively on LGBTQ workplace equality. 
  • The National LGBTQ Taskforce: The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people.
  • The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people.

Also, most major metro areas have at least one LGBTQ Community Center where you can talk to someone about what you’re experiencing.

How can the loved ones of a person who is coming out – or struggling to decide to come out – help them? 

If you’re the parent, or sibling, or friend of someone who you think might be LGBTQ and aren’t sure how you can support them, you can reach out to those resources, too! You may not realize it, but your support is critical to the newly “out” person. You only get one chance to get it right the first time. And just like the person coming out, you’re also not the only one to be going through this. So don’t feel as though you have to go it alone; get support if you need it. You obviously love and care about the person in question, so make sure you can be as supportive and loving as possible!!  And if anyone here at Acronym is either at some point in the coming out process, or has a loved one who is, and needs to talk about it, please call me, anytime!

What else is important to know? 

There’s one thing you really shouldn’t ever do, and that’s telling someone that you know they are LGBTQ before they are ready to come out. While well-intentioned on your part, it usually pushes the individual even further back into the proverbial closet. Why? Because they begin to realize that if you know, then others may know also, and that can be so terrifying to them, that they become paralyzed into inaction. Just give them space and let them do it on their time.  What you can do, however, is say and do things that give them every reason to believe that you will be supportive, when they are ready! 

If you are struggling to find the right way or time to come out to your loved ones, please visit one of the organizations above for assistance. If you are considering self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255 and know you are loved and valued and it really does get better.

Global footprint and holding companies? Work with citizens of the world instead.

By Inside Acronym, Insights & News No Comments

I remember my first global pitch when we (Acronym) opened our Asia Pacific regional office in 2006. Back then, it was fashionable to work with large digital marketing agencies that had an extensive global footprint as part of a holding company’s network (and in some cases this came with equitably extensive agency fees to support these offices).

Global footprints and holding companies were preferred because they were perceived to be more productive with a wider reach. Clients felt that access to a large network of in-office, on-the-ground staff was critical to success. Likewise, in-market equated to a team that had plenty of local knowledge and experience to inject into the client’s projects.

But, this begs the question: is bigger always better?

Not necessarily. Here’s why –

Access to a more talented team.

Independent agencies, like Acronym, are gaining popularity because they can focus more on a specific niche, marketing vertical or industry segment. They hire (or groom) talent to become subject matter experts. This approach facilitates delivery of best-in-class solutions for the client portfolios.

Independent agencies also prioritize staffing based on skillsets, experience, and expertise rather than focusing on where staffing resources are physically located.

This means clients get to work with a group of highly skilled experts who excel in their niche areas of expertise. Additionally, their passion drives continual expansion of knowledge in their specialized discipline.

Higher productivity, increased efficiency.

Often, independent agencies operate on the premise of strategically located home or satellite offices between key time zones. Clients can still get the 24/7 coverage they desire without working with large agencies with offices in all major cities.

Independent agencies are also more eager to please, hence unlikely to be boxed into the “9 to 5” business hours regime. In fact, working around client schedules is an unwritten code of conduct.

Furthermore, doing more with smarter, dedicated teams is inherent in an independent agency’s core competency – it’s part of the DNA.

Extension of your marketing team.

A personalized approach is synonymous with independent agencies. They are structured to provide a more one-to-one approach to each Client’s marketing requirements. Account teams invest time in getting to know their clients and believe in building long standing partnerships.

For clients, this means that they get to meet every person that is working on their account. This leads to more in-depth conversations on strategy, capitalization of industry trends and a collaborative approach to achieving business goals and success.

Clients are in direct contact with the specialists working on their account. This allows for an open flow of communication between the client and a group of specialists who operate like an extension of the client’s in-house marketing team.

Questions get dispersed in a more direct and efficient way, and clients receive answers quicker.

More creative solutions.

A “one size fits all approach” is rarely the case with an independent agency, whereas it’s the modus operandi for agencies led by holding companies whose cookie-cutter approach tends to deliver faster output. The personalized communication from an independent agency often leads to more thought-through and customized solutions that address clients’ unique marketing challenges. Put another way, independent agencies are accustomed to change and we can do so faster because we don’t have layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucracy to overcome.

Being flexible & nimble means independent agencies look for the best way to deliver positive results and are not afraid to do things differently, which may ultimately help clients gain a competitive edge through a more diverse perspective. Without being pegged to a ”certain way of doing things”, creative problem solving or addressing challenges comes naturally.

Moreover, keeping closely attuned to industry trends leads to the application of new ideas, concepts, and strategies relevant to specific industry sectors. Independent agency teams continually identify areas of growth and new opportunities due to the evolving nature of specialized disciplines or industry sectors. As an independent agency, we know how business is run and how important it is to keep one’s eye on the bottom line. We do it every day for ourselves as well as for our Clients. It’s just a part of who we are.

Higher propensity to invest in tools & technology.

Big agencies have big overheads. It’s no secret that the cost of office space, employee benefits, salaries and perks are passed on to the client in the form of high monthly retainers or hourly rates – rates that are usually established by the holding companies, not the actual agencies in the trenches.

Lower overheads and operational efficiencies enable independent agencies to reinvest these savings into tools and technology to help them operate like well-oiled machines. These include marketing automation, CRM, project management and other tools to improve efficiencies and drive success.

In addition, investment into technology enables multiple modes of working. Data is saved on cloud and access and security are tailored for different working modes. Applications and communication tools also allow seamless virtual communication and collaborations.

Virtual first – The (not so) new way of working.

The pandemic has normalized the work from home culture and more companies are going down the route of permanent remote working. Independent agencies are naturally set up for this style of working as they have been doing this for decades.

Often the workplace is distributed across home, office, and satellite offices. Agency resources can choose to work remotely or face-to-face based on their nature of work and teams’ preferences.

Account managers are more experienced at knowing how to manage, train, collaborate, evaluate performance, and motivate their team remotely.

Going back to our 2006 global pitch, we did secure the business because the above benefits (and more) resonated with the Client, and they continue to enjoy a strong partnership and more personal working relationship with highly skilled resources.

Perhaps it’s time more Clients did away with the Global Footprint consideration and holding company network and focused on agency partnerships outfitted to deliver success.

POV by Farah Sadiq, EVP & GM, International

pride flag with holding hands

Why PRIDE?

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As Pride Month comes to a close, Acronym’s Chief People & Diversity Officer, Irwin Drucker shares his perspective on why PRIDE matters.

Many of my friends, both LGBTQ and not, have asked me why, in the post Obergefell v Hodges era, there is still the need to celebrate PRIDE.  I have given them very long-winded explanations and then, this past Saturday, I came across this graphic, which absolutely NAILS IT!

I realized that I was gay while in Junior High School, came out to my first friend while in college, and to my family when I was 26, and already living in South Florida. I was one of the extremely fortunate gay men who was raised in a family where your sexuality was not an issue to anyone. Even my 80+ year old grandmother welcomed and adored my first partner, Jerry (although, to be honest, she referred to him as “my brother”, so I’m not 100% sure she really understood the situation). For gay men of my generation, the AIDS epidemic was our cause, as many fought, and lost, the battle for their lives. And while the Federal government was woefully inadequate in its response to the crisis, the epidemic brought the community together as nothing ever had, with non-profits filled the gap and organizations like GMHC, AHF, Act UP, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, amfAR, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, APLA, and so many more, became household words.

When the crisis stabilized, the LGBT rights movement began to gain strength. Collectively, the LGBTQ community, and millions of our amazing Allies, clearly saw that many in government, at the Federal, state, and local levels, saw us as “less than”, and not deserving of the equal rights that had been granted to ALL American citizens by the Constitution. For those of us lucky enough to live in “an LGBT bubble” like New York City, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, or other similar LGBT population centers, things seemed pretty good on the surface. But for our brothers and sisters in more rural areas of our country, being LGBT was a nightmare. Each year, countless LGBT youth were thrown out of their homes by families unwilling to accept the fact that their sons and daughters were homosexual. Even more LGBT youth were forced to live life in the closet, repressing their sexuality in order to “fit in” at home, school, and place of worship. For all of these young men and women, there was one day that gave them hope … and that day was PRIDE.

When I went to my first PRIDE parade, in Fort Lauderdale, with Jerry, in 1986, the AIDS epidemic was just beginning. Fort Lauderdale was definitely not the gay mecca it is today. Wilton Manors still had remnants of its trailer park past, the mayor was not a friend of the LGBT community, and law enforcement still conducted random raids on parks known to be frequented by gay men. But on that Sunday in June, as the parade marched past me and turned into War Memorial Auditorium for that year’s PRIDEFest, I felt like my community owned the city. It was an amazing feeling. I never dreamt that a year later, Jerry would be diagnosed with AIDS, and I would begin my activist journey.

PRIDE became a sacred day on my calendar. And the LGBT Equal Rights movement became my new cause. The decades of the 1980s and 90s saw a number of Supreme Court cases that focused on LGBT rights, and the results were mixed. We had our first victory in Romer v. Evans in 1996, but big losses in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (also in 1996), and, of course, 1996 also was the year that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law, banning same-sex marriage rights at the Federal level. And in 1998, in rural Wyoming, Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, and left to die tied to a barbed wire fence on a freezing cold night. During these bleak years, PRIDE was the only day of the year it seemed to be OK to be LGBT.

It wasn’t until 2004, in the State of Massachusetts, that same-sex marriage was first legalized in the US.  As the years passed, more and more states passed laws banning same-sex marriage, while a few passed laws which allowed it. And every year, at PRIDE, we celebrated the few victories we had achieved over the past year, and looked forward to the day when we would be seen as equal before the law in every respect. The pace really picked up in the 2010s. In 2013, in it’s most pro-LGBTQ ruling to that date, the SCOTUS, in United States v. Windsor, ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, two years later came the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states!!  We sure celebrated at PRIDE in 2015!!

So we are back at the beginning … why, since 2015, have we needed to keep celebrating PRIDE?  Haven’t we achieved everything we set out to accomplish since the Stonewall riots in 1969 kick-started the LGBT Rights movement? In a word, NO. Although we won the right to marry the person we love, irrespective of their gender, we lost the next time “we” were at the Supreme Court.  In 2018, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the SCOTUS ruled that an individual’s religious beliefs could not be ignored in the interest of promoting equality. This has created a huge loophole through which countless instances of homophobia have been allowed to go unchecked under the guise of “religious liberties.” And even with the most recent landmark ruling in our favor in 2020, when the SCOTUS ruled that discrimination based upon gender identity of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, the fight for equality continues.  And so does the need for PRIDE.

Why, you ask??  Every year in our great country, over 4 MILLION youth experience homelessness, for a variety of reasons. And yet, according to True Colors United, 40% of those youth are LGBTQ, while only 7% of all youth are LGBTQ.

In addition, according to groups like Trevor Project, more than 10% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, and that number skyrockets to more than 30% of Trans youth. And 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting to take their own lives!  That’s an estimated 1.8 million young people who are seriously considering taking their own lives rather than continuing to live as an LGBTQ person!

So that, my friends, is why we still need PRIDE. As an out and proud gay man, I am fortunate to be part of a family and to work for a company with a culture that embraces me for who I am. Until ALL of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters can say the same thing, we will still need to have PRIDE, so that every young LGBTQ man and woman can know that there is hope, that it’s okay to be LGBTQ, and that they can dare to dream to be anything they choose.

 

As a LGBT-owned agency, Acronym is a proud member of the NGLCC. To learn more about our own Diversity and Inclusion programs, please contact us. 

juneteenth flag

Juneteenth: The Importance and Value of Action On This Day

By Acronym News, Diversity and Inclusion, Inside Acronym No Comments

It has been just over a year since the murder of George Floyd by a uniformed police officer on May 25, 2020. Since that date, it would be hard to imagine anyone in a leadership position in Corporate America to have not had a conversation regarding the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  These conversations, in my opinion, have fallen into a couple of broad categories, based upon the legacy of DEI programs and policies at the company where the subject is being discussed.

For some companies, where DEI has been ingrained in the corporate culture for many years, the conversation likely centered around a discussion of the merits of these programs, and how they might be enhanced to maximize their results for the good of the company’s stakeholders – employees, managers, and executives, their families, clients, suppliers, and, of course, shareholders. While not easy conversations, those corporate leaders certainly had the benefit of years of “doing the right thing”, of backing up their words with concrete evidence of actions that had been taken long ago, to create a culture of inclusion throughout the workplace.

Other companies, however, were not so fortunate.  For many, taking the “me too” approach seemed the only way to go. Often, it was a case of “too little, too late.”

Yesterday, President Biden signed into law: S: 475, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which designates Juneteenth as a legal public holiday.  And, today, many businesses, schools, and communities across the country will honor Juneteenth as a recognized holiday. We’re proud that Acronym is among them as our offices are closed so our employees may reflect on the meaning of the day.

The holiday, which is finally seeing the recognition it deserves, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger read federal orders stating that all enslaved people in Texas were free.

Until that day, despite the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham officially freeing all slaves in the states that were in open rebellion in September of 1862, many slave owners migrated west toward Texas to escape the control of the Union army. In fact, following the Union capture of New Orleans in 1862, it is estimated that over 150,000 slaves were relocated to Texas. As one of the most remote slave states, the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation was especially slow in Texas. Consequently, General Granger’s issue of the federal orders reflects one of the final stages of official emancipation of slaves in the Confederacy.

A year later in 1866, the first celebrations of Juneteenth occurred amongst several church congregations in Texas. Throughout much of the early 20th century, the celebrations spread across the South, and the holiday grew in popularity during the Civil Rights era and has seen worldwide acceptance in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the emergence of the Black Lives Mater movement.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have long been keys to successful implementation of many corporations’ strategic growth plans. They have been consistently proven to be important in both attracting and retaining top talent, as well as increasing a company’s client base. And, seeing corporate America recognize Juneteenth reflects the significant progress that’s been made over the years.

Simply put, embracing DEI is the right thing to do. I have spent close to forty years in corporate America, working for both small companies and large enterprises, all of which saw the value of DEI, and all of which encouraged me in my advocacy of those programs, often as an integral part of my job responsibilities. Last year, I was given the opportunity to present a training session on racism that focused on White Privilege and Unconscious Bias. Attendance at the session was voluntary, and yet over 90% of the workforce, which is predominantly white, showed up. And the effect was profound.

For the better part of a week after the session, I received calls and emails from attendees, attesting to the positive impact the session had on them and their families, as they began to finally understand issues that many of their co-workers had been dealing with their entire lives.  One of them made a comment that, I think, will stay with me forever. In his email he said, “When you asked the question ‘Have you ever had to talk to your son about how to survive a routine traffic stop and make it home alive?’, I realized how very privileged I have been as a white man. To be honest, up until that moment, my only thought would have been what that speeding ticket my kid got was going to do to my auto insurance rates.  The thought that his getting pulled over for speeding, or some such thing, could lead to his death at the hands of law enforcement would never have crossed my mind.

As a parent, I cannot imagine knowing that could happen to my child, let alone that it would be tolerated by much of our society.  Not any longer!”  Reading this, I realized there were tears streaming down my face, and I sat back and smiled, knowing that there had been a breakthrough in awareness for at least one person, and hopefully quite a few more.  And that, to me, is the most significant value to DEI.

So, with that in mind, I am once again proud to work for a company like Acronym that doesn’t just talk about diversity, equality and inclusion as the latest buzzwords. Here at Acronym, we walk the talk. You see it in the make up of our employees and senior leadership; you see it in the programs and internal initiatives we embrace, and you can see it in the moments in time we honor.

When thinking about the long-awaited national observance of this day, I can’t help but to think of the quote from Coretta Scott King who said, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”

This quote rings as true today as the day she first spoke it. There is still much work to be done in this country and around the world to ensure every human being is truly free.

But, it’s heartening to see that this year, for the first time, our country is officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federally recognized holiday.

POV By Irwin Drucker, Chief People and Diversity Officer, Acronym

 

Inside Acronym

By Inside Acronym No Comments

Meet Acronym’s Ryan Pitcharelle

Vice President of the Digital Center for Excellence

How long have you worked here? 

7 years (with a 1 year sabbatical in the middle)


What brought you to Acronym? 

Opportunity.


What do you love most about search marketing? Why? 

The impact. I love to see levers I pull result in changes the world can see.


What acronym do you use the most IRL?

ROI


What’s your favorite clock in the office? Why?

I like the global time zone clocks in the front because it reminds me we are bigger than just the U.S.


Orange is a big part of Acronym’s brand identity – what does the color mean to you? 

Means teamwork to me.


Other than the view, what’s the best part of working in the Empire State Building? 

Centrally located and the office location validates my work.


Anton’s favorite movie is Auntie Mame – what’s yours? 

I really like Clueless and a Bronx Tale.


Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana? Why? 

Google Now on my phone and Alexa at home. Alexa plays better music but Google knows me best.


What’s something most of our colleagues don’t know about you already? 

I love horseracing and my next career endeavor will include that as a focal point.