Nazia Du Bois on holding onto the senior talent from marginalised backgrounds

There is a problem in the communications and creative industries that few people are doing anything about. 

It has to do with a senior ceiling that marginalised communities face when it comes to senior roles. There is a drain of really talented people that are leaving because they just don’t see a path for their progression in these companies.

It not only doesn’t have to be that way, but business is worse off if this is allowed to happen.

Today, Nazia Du Bois, former Global Head of Rare with Google, is going to bring all of this to life for us.

Nazia is a multiple award-winning agency founder, creative strategy leader, and industry DEI champion. She most recently led Google's global DEI program, Rare with Google, aimed at raising diversity in the creative industries. Before that, she was Global Brand Strategy Director at Netflix, working on representation and global brand equity. 

Prior to going in-house, Nazia founded Ricebowl Strategy, which developed award-winning global brand positioning platforms for Spotify, Harry's and Popeyes amongst others. She was the founding global CSO of DAVID in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Miami, as well as founding Ogilvy's Islamic Branding practice.

Nazia has been named one of the top 5 most awarded planning directors in the world.

She is from Bangladesh and holds two degrees from Oxford.

Today you’ll hear stories from her time at Netflix and how being in LA when the social justice movement kicked off in the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd then paved the way to the next stage of her career. 

We hear about the strategies that Google used to create more creative diversity at senior leavels of the company, with a view to change the culture of the organisation.

Nazia shares some profound thinking from top thought leaders driving the inclusion revolution and what needs to happen to hold onto the senior talent from marginalised cultures.

And then tells us what she learned about diversity and inclusion from being part of the mass layoffs at Google in 2023. 

Nazia then leaves us with an important piece of advice that all of us can take to heart.

This episode will leave you with lots to ponder on, so throw on those running shoes or grab that favourite beverage, and here is Nazia. 

And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:03:15 – 00:00:32:07
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we expose new perspectives on our ever evolving world through the lenses of various industries, cultures and backgrounds. Our guests are disruptors united by a common goal to bring their purpose to life, whether they’re from the commercial world or third sector, from the Global North or the Global South. Expect an inspirational journey that will transform your perspective on just what is possible.

00:00:32:18 – 00:00:38:13
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed.

00:00:40:14 – 00:01:09:07
Philippa White
Nazia has always believed that it’s the storytellers of our world who hold the most power of all, the power to change minds, hearts, behavior, and even very occasionally the course of history, as she says. That’s why it’s so important for us to look carefully at the storytellers behind the narratives we’re living by right now to ensure that they reflect our whole world and inspire us with perspectives different from our own.

00:01:10:08 – 00:01:34:21
Philippa White
Having just written a book that is all about seeing the world from different viewpoints and providing stories on leadership from all corners of the world, I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m so thrilled to have had this conversation with Nazia. Welcome to Episode 78 of TIE Unearthed. Nazia is a multiple award winning agency founder, creative strategy leader and industry delight champion.

00:01:35:06 – 00:02:11:13
Philippa White
She most recently led Google’s Global DEI program, rare with Google aimed at raising diversity in the creative industries. Before that, she was global brand strategy director at Netflix working on representation and global brand equity. Prior to going in-house, Nazia founded Rice Bowl Strategy, which developed award winning global brand positioning platforms for Spotify, Harrys and Popeyes, among others. She was the founding global CSO of DAVID in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Miami, as well as founding Ogilvy’s Islamic branding practice.

00:02:12:09 – 00:02:42:01
Philippa White
Nazia has been named one of the top five most awarded planning directors in the world. She’s from Bangladesh and holds two degrees from Oxford. Today you’ll hear stories from her time at Netflix and Google. She’ll explain why her successful strategic agency Rice Bowl is so important to her. And the answer isn’t what you would imagine. And she’ll bring to life the areas she’s passionate about representation, creativity, cultural strategy and purposeful business.

00:02:42:16 – 00:03:03:20
Philippa White
As a TIE alum from many moons ago, we’ll also hear how our program had a lasting impact on her life. Without question, this episode will leave you with lots to ponder on. So throw on those running shoes or grab that favorite beverage. And here is Nazia Nausea.

00:03:03:21 – 00:03:10:17
Philippa White
Thank you so much for joining us. It’s always fun and it’s just really great. So thank you for joining.

00:03:10:23 – 00:03:17:22
Nazia Du Bois
Thank you for having me. I’m so happy this has been on the cards for a very long time, so I’m glad we’re finally doing it.

00:03:17:22 – 00:03:23:15
Philippa White
Tell us, where are you? Where are you sitting? Because you you do travel a lot. So where where are you right now?

00:03:23:24 – 00:03:44:21
Nazia Du Bois
I do move around a great deal. I am in London at the moment in my little home office and looking out at the very blustery autumn weather and feeling actually very happy to be here. I’ve been living in Singapore for the last year and a half and I’ve just relocated back to London. And it’s just, I have to say, so lovely to be home.

00:03:45:13 – 00:03:57:21
Philippa White
Yeah, well, even as nice as well as in it, I have to say, living in Brazil, we don’t have seasons. And do you miss the seasons? It’s nice to have a, you know, a fire in and out of it.

00:03:57:23 – 00:04:03:11
Nazia Du Bois
Usually when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, it’s lovely to just curl up with a cup of tea. Yeah.

00:04:04:06 – 00:04:19:01
Philippa White
Yes. Well, you’ll be able to do that, but we obviously have known each other for years. We’ve known each other for a long time. Tell us a bit about you and your background. I think before Netflix, before Google, before Rice Bowl. What is your story? Nausea.

00:04:19:05 – 00:04:57:22
Nazia Du Bois
I love starting with that question because it’s so broad and I suppose everyone approaches it very differently. We met you and I for the benefit of your listeners, probably well over a decade ago now. Yeah, sort of. Maybe a decade and a half years ago from when I was on your brilliant time program, which I think was, it’s fair to say, was one of the pivotal moments in my career as an advertising strategist, where I really felt there’s an opportunity for people in our industry to come together and do some good.

00:04:58:15 – 00:05:15:07
Nazia Du Bois
And it was the first time that I had felt that good could be tangible. And it’s something I’ve brought to the table. So I have to say thank you to you for the opportunity. And you were the reason why I eventually ended up moving to Brazil a few years later and I got that job offer to move to Brazil.

00:05:15:07 – 00:05:36:07
Nazia Du Bois
I thought, Well, hang on, I know, I know Brazil because I want the tie there and I think I could do it. So you really gave me so much confidence to be able to take that leap. So backtracking a little bit. I’m from Bangladesh originally I was born and raised across many different countries. I spent some of my childhood in Bangladesh, some of my childhood in Hong Kong.

00:05:36:12 – 00:06:00:07
Nazia Du Bois
I moved to the UK to study at university and ended up in the WPP Marketing Fellowship Program straight after uni met some really, really wonderful people. At the time, the program was being run by John Steele, who is another huge champion of yours. So he was very pro the TIE campaign and the TIE organization and your calls and encouraged us to apply.

00:06:00:13 – 00:06:26:06
Nazia Du Bois
And WPP supported people who went from the fellowship on to doing Thai. So that was how that whole interaction came about. I was at WPP for about around ten years, across different roles. At the end, just before I left, I was chief strategy officer of David. So I spent most of my career at WPP as an advertising planner, as a stress associate level planning director at Ogilvy.

00:06:26:06 – 00:06:56:10
Nazia Du Bois
And I was doing a lot of really interesting work for FMC giant CPG companies like Unilever. And then there was an opportunity to set up an agency in Brazil as a sort of offshoot, sort of younger sibling of Ogilvy. And it was going to be called David. And I joined the founding team as the founding CSR moved to Brazil, moved to Sao Paulo, learned Portuguese, got a house, did all the things, and then ended up living in Brazil for three years and for absolutely magical years.

00:06:57:15 – 00:07:33:24
Nazia Du Bois
After that I moved back to all the way from Brazil, moved Malaysia for a few years. Long story. I was in Penang for a few years. Since then been sort of running both my own company, as well as doing full time gigs at various organizations on the client side. So I haven’t actually gone back into an agency side role for many years now, apart from running my own agency, which is, you know, an agency center offshore, I also do stints at larger organizations, brands that that need a bit more focused work from a seasoned marketing consultant at a senior level.

00:07:33:24 – 00:07:39:12
Nazia Du Bois
That’s my life. And I’m currently back in London after having spent a year and a half in Singapore working for Google.

00:07:39:12 – 00:08:01:20
Philippa White
Well, we’re going to talk about that because it will be really, really interesting to know. But before we get to Google, because you touched on your agency very, very quickly and obviously rise school is is a big part of you and your story. And I think it would just be really interesting to understand how did this all come about and what is the you know, what work have you done over the years?

00:08:01:20 – 00:08:03:20
Philippa White
And why is it so important to you?

00:08:03:21 – 00:08:33:01
Nazia Du Bois
Absolutely. Thank you. It’s actually a very it’s a personal passion of mine, global brand positioning strategy. It sounds like quite an odd thing to have as a passion, I suppose, but I just really, really love positioning brands. I just find that more fascinating. And so interesting and just so impactful if it’s done right. And so when I left the advertising world, it was partly because I was burnt out.

00:08:33:06 – 00:08:57:18
Nazia Du Bois
I had worked myself essentially to the bone. Running an agency is is never easy being a founder of a small startup, which is, you know, one of the world’s most awarded agencies, is also not easy. But doing it in a language you don’t speak is incredibly difficult. So I had worked so, so hard over the time that I spent in Brazil sort of growing, David, from the ground and building out this wonderful team that we had.

00:08:57:18 – 00:09:07:14
Nazia Du Bois
And the team are still doing just amazing work. I’m so proud of them, but I needed to take a break and so I took some time off to think about what I wanted to do with my life and my career.

00:09:07:24 – 00:09:21:06
Philippa White
And that’s when we just yeah, that’s when we get the amazing pictures of you with your mom. Like you and the extraordinary places where you. The most extraordinary outfit. Oh, God. Yeah.

00:09:21:15 – 00:09:41:07
Nazia Du Bois
Yes, I have traveled quite a lot. A lot of people identify as third culture kids now. But I think, you know, where you and I are in that camp of people who’ve always had sort of a footing in many different places and have that ability to transition quite easily. And that’s such a transferable skill when it comes to communications and marketing.

00:09:41:07 – 00:10:11:16
Nazia Du Bois
And people forget that sometimes I had to find a way of working that could combine both my passions in strategy, but also sort of allow me a vision of work life balance, running a big global strategy team in an ad agency. It was it seemed like that wasn’t the right answer for me at the time. So what I wanted to do was set up something that was really quite boutique in nature, quite specialized, and didn’t do any of the creative work, really focused on developing the brand platform that formed the positioning of any brand’s global strategy.

00:10:11:16 – 00:10:32:16
Nazia Du Bois
And my philosophy was very much that if you have a global brand positioning, that should be about taking a position and otherwise it’s kind of pointless. And so sort of really digging around within brands sort of archives and histories and personalities to figure out what it is that they would be comfortable and passionate about taking a position on.

00:10:32:17 – 00:10:54:22
Nazia Du Bois
And how would that position potentially help to make the world a slightly better place? So purpose led branding was very much top of mind back then. I think it’s had a lot of detractors in recent years, but I think the fundamental principle of companies should be producing things that we want to have in our lives and talking about them in ways that we feel are not interruptive but additive to our lives.

00:10:55:02 – 00:11:20:12
Nazia Du Bois
I think that principle is still valid, and for companies to want to do some good with their revenues is is always welcome, I think. And so I do my best to try and ensure that the work we do through response is socially positive in its orientation. I’m very particularly proud of Rice Bowl for having won awards again when we’ve been up against quite large creative agency networks for very, very large brands that we’ve worked on.

00:11:20:12 – 00:11:40:14
Nazia Du Bois
We’ve been very lucky to have been approached by brands is as well known as Spotify, Netflix, you know, and we’ve done a lot of repetition strategies for all our clients using the same methodology that I’ve developed over the years. When I think about how small we are as a team and quite how much work we can get done just by being really passionate about what we do.

00:11:40:14 – 00:11:43:24
Philippa White
Yeah, I can relate.

00:11:43:24 – 00:12:04:19
Nazia Du Bois
Absolutely. I mean, you know, that scale isn’t always necessarily the best indicator for productivity. You know, we have a small, very nimble team, but we we do, you know, enormous bits of work that are incredibly they just they bring me so much joy and pride to talk about. I love all my clients. They’ve all been just wonderful friends over the years.

00:12:05:04 – 00:12:24:00
Nazia Du Bois
We are in a very lucky position to not have to pitch for work because we tend to have more people asking us to help them than we have done before. So we’re in a very, very privileged position and and I’ve kept rice ball going over the last few years, even while I’ve gone in-house at various positions because it’s incredibly important to me to do that.

00:12:24:04 – 00:12:43:17
Philippa White
And so I think that that’s a really good segway to you have worked at Netflix, you have worked at Google. It would be great to understand what you did there and why you took on those roles. But I do want you to just touch a little bit more on why you kept Rice Bowl going as well. Like what was the importance there?

00:12:43:17 – 00:13:13:05
Nazia Du Bois
Great questions, very perceptive. When I was working with Netflix, they basically reached out to me to help them develop their global brand position and strategy for the first time in the brand’s 22 year lifetime. And I was contracted to essentially lead the Global Brand Strategy piece for the newly created global brand team of Netflix. So moving to L.A. to do that and, you know, had a very, very interesting time there because that was about the same time.

00:13:13:05 – 00:13:38:23
Nazia Du Bois
Sort of towards the end of the first year, the social justice movement really kicked off in the US after the murder of George Floyd. And during that summer of reckoning, essentially all eyes were on the big corporations for how they were going to respond and being part of a brand team as an organization that so well known and was, you know, expected to have a point of view on the situation was a very, very interesting thing.

00:13:38:23 – 00:14:04:19
Nazia Du Bois
And, you know, I learned a lot. I was part of the team that helped to create collections of content that were specific to marginalized communities at the time, specifically the African-American community, the black community, but also the sense of all marginalized communities needing to to be seen at a content level. That was something that was just starting to be talked about internally anyway when when all of this happened.

00:14:04:19 – 00:14:27:18
Nazia Du Bois
So it was a really interesting time to be working at Netflix, COVID that happened, unfortunately. So, you know, that sort of put a spanner in the works and I moved back to the UK at the time, continued to run, rise, fall. But then Google reached out with this very interesting idea of running a program that they had been running within their marketing organization.

00:14:28:00 – 00:14:52:09
Nazia Du Bois
And the program was called Rare Rare with Google. And it was a program to essentially increase creative diversity at senior levels, at all levels in the industry, but focusing on senior leadership in our industry and essentially trying to tackle the problem of of having this dream of really talented folks who leave at a certain point in their career because they don’t see a path forward.

00:14:52:09 – 00:15:19:13
Nazia Du Bois
You know, we’ve talked for many, many years about the glass ceiling that women face, but there is really, truly a serious feeling that people from marginalized or historically underrepresented communities face within the marketing and communications and design and all creative industries where, you know, you reach a certain level, many organizations that might be sort of director, senior director, VP even, but you can’t really see a path forward beyond that because the top is still sort of offline.

00:15:19:13 – 00:15:30:18
Philippa White
And why is that from marginalized communities if people are managing to get to certain positions? What is creating that? I mean, it’s complex, I’m aware, but.

00:15:31:04 – 00:15:55:21
Nazia Du Bois
It is very complex. I think it comes from both directions, as it were, from the top and from the individual themselves. So essentially dominant cultures are never going to choose an option that would in any way undermine their dominance, right? So there is a culture of essentially paying lip service to diversity, equity and inclusion up until the point where you actually have to make some decisions that might threaten your own dominance.

00:15:56:07 – 00:16:15:14
Nazia Du Bois
And that’s something that we’ve seen across the board, across all organizations. And, you know, people call it wolf washing or performance violation or all sorts of things. But ultimately, we’ve seen that happen time and time again, especially over the last couple of years where we have really pulled funding from the programs as the world’s attentions have shifted to other problems.

00:16:16:08 – 00:16:35:04
Nazia Du Bois
And what happens is that you realize that the people at the top who say these things are very, very important to the organization don’t often feel very accountable in terms of following through. They may actually personally believe in their importance. But often these things are not they’re not measured in the way that they need to be, and they’re not culturally ingrained the way they need to be.

00:16:35:12 – 00:16:56:04
Nazia Du Bois
And so, you know, very few organizations are saying things like, you know, we commit to having, you know, 50% of our leadership being from diverse communities or women or, you know, very few people are actually putting those sticks in the ground. And if you actually look at the numbers, some improvement has taken place for sure, but but very little compared to what could have been done.

00:16:56:04 – 00:17:22:02
Nazia Du Bois
And that’s certainly from my point of view, what should have been done. So that’s from the organization’s perspective. I think from the individual’s perspective often happens is that, you know, you are fundamentally tired. You were weighed down by having had to fight for years to not just progress, but, you know, to to even exist to even be in the room is is a struggle to carve out that space for yourself and to say to yourself and to everyone around you that I am valid.

00:17:22:02 – 00:17:46:14
Nazia Du Bois
I exist here for a reason. I’m here because of my talents. I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. That is an incredibly exhausting conversation to have with yourself every day and to have to do that constantly, particularly in moments of crisis. A lot has been written about this, but in particularly moments of crisis, the entire organization looks to the people who represent marginalized communities in their employee base and say, Can you tell us how to do this?

00:17:46:14 – 00:18:10:11
Nazia Du Bois
Or can you teach us why this is? And what happens is we’re just putting more and more labor, emotional and actual labor, onto people who who really haven’t signed up for this extra unpaid labor. And so by the time you get to the top, you’re both a representative and a role model for marginalized communities. You’re also trying to do the job itself on a daily basis and do really well at it because you don’t get a second chance, right?

00:18:10:11 – 00:18:35:09
Nazia Du Bois
That, you know, you are much more scrutinized and all of that just ultimately becomes very heavy and very draining. And so many of the leaders I’ve spoken to who choose to leave have said a combination and they leave at that level. You know, that’s quite senior, but not quite C-suite level. And they’ve always said things like, I just didn’t feel that the organization had the support systems in place to to get me to the next level.

00:18:35:09 – 00:19:03:05
Nazia Du Bois
I just didn’t feel like they were actually invested in my success, and I felt like I had given everything of myself to this company, whereas the company just saw me as, you know, an expendable employee. And that’s something that I hear a lot as people from marginalized communities really feeling like they have expended so much of their own energy into these organizations that they see as almost familial structures.

00:19:03:05 – 00:19:15:22
Nazia Du Bois
And then the shock and the sense of having been fooled, that almost comes with when you realize that you are just an employee and you are you are fundamentally dispensable with, you know, that’s very difficult. So people don’t.

00:19:15:24 – 00:19:40:14
Philippa White
Realize, yeah, it’s really interesting. And I’m going to digress just a little bit before we get back on to the questions, just because it has a lot to do with one of the programs that we’ve just launched, we’ve launched a global initiative that is a scalable option for leadership training, for companies, and it’s about getting more human competencies into the hands of more people because that’s kind of the root of what we that’s what we do.

00:19:40:14 – 00:20:08:13
Philippa White
And it’s broken down into different areas. So one of them is around self-awareness and the importance of self-awareness, of leadership, and how, as a leader, understanding what fulfills you, who you are, your strengths and weaknesses and just what you’re about is, is fundamental. And in order to bring this to life, we talk to different people. And one of the individuals we’ve spoken to about this area of self-awareness is a psychotherapist from Iraq, and she’s a Kurd.

00:20:08:19 – 00:20:48:24
Philippa White
So she’s from the northern part of Iraq, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. And she works with women, men, children who have been traumatized by war, ISIS attack in 2014 and people who are just struggling every day with real trauma. But how to move forward is actually rooted in self-awareness. That’s what she does. And when we spoke spoken to Asma many times, what she told me, she said specifically, in order to create more resilience and to create more stability in the region of Iraq and the nation of Iraq, but specifically for the Kurds, she said.

00:20:48:24 – 00:21:15:16
Philippa White
The problem is the Kurds have grown up their whole life, understanding that they’re less than that, they’re not as good as. And she said, what we need to do, the answer is self-awareness. And she said, it’s actually the oppressed that gives power to the oppressor. Once you have that power, once you know who you are, once you have that so like solid core, no one can get you it, just listening to you talk.

00:21:15:16 – 00:21:34:17
Philippa White
And I just think for companies that understand these variables, listening to what you say about these leaders is just a lot of lip service is given. And actually a lot of the time I would say that, you know, I would hope that many of the leaders of companies, sort of the C-suite, they you know, you have to be able to empathize, to be able to understand you.

00:21:34:24 – 00:21:51:17
Philippa White
You have to have these conversations. You have to kind of put yourself in the shoes of what is it that people are facing in life? It’s busy and and it’s hard to do that. That’s why we need people like you who run departments like this, because help actually systematized these types of this type of change. Cultural change within a company.

00:21:52:02 – 00:22:09:13
Philippa White
But just listening to you talk and you think, you know, for that individual who’s struggling to kind of make it and there’s so many demons that you would have that you would face throughout your life, you know, you’ve been told since you’ve been a child that you’re less than you know, you’re dealing in a culture that, you know, you’re constantly having to fight against things.

00:22:09:13 – 00:22:30:05
Philippa White
So there’s a lot of internal struggle that you have anyway. You think, you know, coaching, having self-awareness, coaching to be able to build that core, I mean, that would be huge to be able to then give people that the power to fight against possibly unknown oppression. But, you know, it’s, it’s powerful. So anyway, just listening to you talking.

00:22:30:05 – 00:23:04:14
Nazia Du Bois
I love that you spotted that and I love the way you articulate that because it is incredibly powerful to allow people to see that they have this space in which they can be fully self aware and self reliant when they’re when they’re coached into it. And that is exactly the work that we were doing at Rare. We were essentially running coaching and training with the world’s leading academic psychologists, you know, thinkers and getting all of that thinking to the cohorts of of leadership that we felt were, you know, they had to apply to get in.

00:23:04:14 – 00:23:30:06
Nazia Du Bois
And, you know, it was very, very competitive. But they were, you know, the people who were most able to not just take on these learnings and then, you know, progress in their careers, but also impact many, many others because of the stage of the career that they were at, you know. So it’s almost like a pivot. You choose to to target this bottleneck, because when you look at companies now, you see that at the bottom of the pyramid, there’s a lot more diversity than there is at the top.

00:23:30:06 – 00:23:55:08
Nazia Du Bois
The bottom has been dealt with quite well with intakes of very diverse new candidates from from all sorts of places. But the top is still essentially quite homogenous. And it’s that level just before the top that we’re tackling, because we know that when we can change leadership, we can change essentially the culture of the organization. So we were doing this incredible work with, you know, as I said, leading clinical psychologist and thought leaders in the space of diet.

00:23:55:08 – 00:24:29:05
Nazia Du Bois
You know, we were talking to legal experts and all sorts things. And one of the people we worked with very closely was Dr. Sana, our son, who’s a clinical psychologist with the NHS in the in the UK and she helped us with. So we’re really framing this consciousness of woundedness and this idea that, you know, we are all essentially traumatized by these dominant cultures and which we are forced to operate and recognizing that trauma, not just at an individual level but as at a collective level and saying, you know, we are connected in this woundedness and that is a source of power and strength for us.

00:24:29:05 – 00:24:56:19
Nazia Du Bois
Once we recognize that we have this community, we can we can really rely on each other. There’s something so incredibly powerful about that, but also just the power in giving each other and ourselves the care and the compassion to just sit with the uncomfortable feelings and to know that it’s okay to to not always be performing and to not always be incredibly productive and innovative and and, you know, have have results that are measurable by Wall Street as it were.

00:24:57:01 – 00:25:24:20
Nazia Du Bois
And this is something that’s very difficult. I think that there are many thinkers within the space who’ve written about this. Daisy, your mentor, Dominguez’s another one. She she’s an incredibly articulate thinker in this space. She’s a practitioner of AI and she’s written about the inclusion revolution. And she’s also talked about this this idea that you cannot build cultures of perfectionism and productivity at the cost of humanness.

00:25:24:21 – 00:25:42:03
Nazia Du Bois
Right. And empathy. And I know that this is what a lot of your book and your research has been about over the last few years. It’s been really interesting to me to see that shift in understanding with people understanding that these short term results that we’re chasing aren’t necessarily going to give us long term sustainability for our organizations that we need.

00:25:42:14 – 00:26:11:04
Nazia Du Bois
Cultural headwinds are slowly shifting, but I don’t think that they’re shifting quite fast enough, to be honest, to hold on to this incredible talent that we seem to be losing as an industry. I think the advertising agencies in general, as a model that, you know, are fairly broken. Everybody seems to recognize that, you know, major things will have to shift, but, you know, holding on to really good talent while expecting them to work long hours and in the ways with this and expect it to work over the last few decades, I don’t think that’s sustainable.

00:26:11:10 – 00:26:30:04
Nazia Du Bois
So yeah, there’s there’s a lot that needs to be done here. But recognizing the cultural trauma that comes with being marginalized in these essentially dominant cultural organizations that are resistant to change is step one. And that’s the work I was doing at Rare until unfortunately obviously I had to stop.

00:26:30:11 – 00:26:53:19
Philippa White
Yeah. You know, we’re talking about changing culture. I mean, culture, as we know in any society is very difficult in any culture, anywhere to move the needle, to move something takes generations. Right. I think for anyone who’s listening to this and just sort of understanding that, you know, having people go into certain we’re talking about changing culture within organizations.

00:26:53:19 – 00:27:17:04
Philippa White
We’re talking about changing the way that people, humans see themselves, see them selves within a culture. And that takes time. It takes time and it takes a long time. And I think when we’re looking at out behaving the competition, when we’re looking at doing things differently from a behavioral point of view, we’re not talking about two year timelines.

00:27:17:08 – 00:27:32:14
Philippa White
We’re talking about 20 or 30 or 40 year timelines because it takes it’s moving a needle, but it’s it’s behavioral and that takes time. So I just you know, I think anyone who’s looking at this, you’re in it for the long game.

00:27:33:07 – 00:28:00:13
Nazia Du Bois
100%. Unfortunately, most of these programs that have been cut across, not just the tech world, but across the business world in general, have been a casualty to exactly that impatience that you’re pointing to. There is a fundamental impatience embedded in the chapter structure. Right. So, you know, quarterly results and the city and Wall Street essentially looking at how these publicly traded companies are doing.

00:28:00:21 – 00:28:27:06
Nazia Du Bois
And I don’t think that that kind of metric or that kind of thinking, that kind of process of measurement is in any way appropriate for the kind of work that you need to be doing on a human level, because that is a longer term thing. So something I often say is that the problems that these programs were set up to address were themselves about 500 years in the making.

00:28:27:18 – 00:28:50:24
Nazia Du Bois
So do you really think that we’re going to be able to show you a return on this investment within the next couple of quarters? No, it’s going to take generations, but you are going to have to consistently invest in that period of time. You can’t just stop and start thinking, you know, I’ll just do it when it looks right, when the headlines are needed or whatever, because these are people’s lives we’re talking about.

00:28:50:24 – 00:29:20:16
Nazia Du Bois
You need to invest for the long run to see, you know, the kinds of career level change as a holistic level. And that’s one of the saddest things about these programs being cut and as you know, I was part of the mass layoffs at Google early 2023. And part of the reason for that is that these sorts of programs and this isn’t just Google, this is all tech companies are having to to really look at which teams and organizations are considered fundamental to the business, to the running of the business.

00:29:20:16 – 00:29:44:20
Nazia Du Bois
And unfortunately, the AI programs are very often, you know, in the front line of being cut, marketing teams tend to be very badly affected in layoffs. Creative teams tend to be badly affected, I think, talking about tech in general here. But the items I think Twitter went from 32 people. You know, there’s genuinely a sense that this is something in times of need, something we can do without.

00:29:45:03 – 00:30:03:02
Nazia Du Bois
And I would argue that it’s the exact opposite, that these are the programs, these are the people that you need to invest in in order for the culture to be robust enough to survive the onslaught of, you know, the competition and the market changes coming up in the future. So it is a real shame that culturally we haven’t we haven’t woken up to this reality.

00:30:03:02 – 00:30:25:23
Nazia Du Bois
And we’re also not holding these organizations accountable for essentially reneging on the promises they made a few years ago. And that is a shame. But I think having more conversations like this is definitely helpful and bringing to light the fact that this this work doesn’t stop. You know, we find other pockets in which to do it, but ideally it needs to happen in the corridors of power.

00:30:26:05 – 00:30:35:00
Nazia Du Bois
This work needs to be done in the boardrooms, in the places where people are making decisions that affect millions of lives, not just in nonprofits or, you know.

00:30:35:04 – 00:30:52:20
Philippa White
No. And I think also the you know, I talked about I mentioned it, it’s like a line in my book. But just, you know, the DNI conversation as well. It’s been in this pocket of when you talk about NGOs and you talk about sort of charity and it’s sort of this charitable obligation and it’s like, look, it’s genuinely more competitive.

00:30:52:20 – 00:31:28:04
Philippa White
And I mean, that’s it’s so it’s obvious that, right, you have 100% homogenized thinking and a whole lot of people coming from a similar background, having similar conversations from a similar class, from a similar whatever. And you’re not going to see things from a different point of view. I mean, that’s you know, if you enjoy traveling, if you enjoy immersing yourself in other places and you know how rich it is when you suddenly have an in-depth conversation with someone who comes from a completely different background and you think, Oh, I’ve never even I know I didn’t even realize that things were done like that purely from the point of view of being more competitive.

00:31:28:12 – 00:31:54:03
Philippa White
It is a competitive advantage to have diaper 100% and you need to if you’re not hiring. And also it’s difficult because we’re all like that too. I mean, I enjoy understanding different worlds. I enjoy different perspectives. But we are all guilty of being comfortable in the world that we know. And at the end of a long day, you know, having conversations with people who think like us is just genuinely easier.

00:31:54:03 – 00:32:17:01
Philippa White
And you go to the same kind of places on holiday because it is comfortable and you like it in the business world. To then hire people who are different is hard because you know, the references and what people are talking about is different and and the mannerisms are different and the way that people behave is different. And so you have you have your own judgments which are human nature and normal.

00:32:17:11 – 00:32:34:10
Philippa White
But again, it’s like having to kind of overcome that and how to get through that. And that again comes down to, okay, so we need to be aware, we need to be aware of the the system that’s not working. How can I push myself forward as a leader to ensure that I hire people who are completely different to me, who think differently to me?

00:32:34:10 – 00:32:42:21
Philippa White
And that’s a that is an advantage. And so that every step of the way isn’t it? And it’s having to be be critical and to see that and to understand that.

00:32:43:19 – 00:33:07:15
Nazia Du Bois
100%. Yeah. Yeah. I really like what you say about you know, being every step of the way, because this is that’s the crux of it really is that inclusion strategy is everything that the company does. You know, it’s not just one thing. It’s not just, oh, I’ve hired them. And now, you know, I can say that this percentage of my organization is is X, but it’s an attitude of supporting them throughout their careers.

00:33:07:15 – 00:33:30:00
Nazia Du Bois
And it really the infusion level of a company has really shown through all the decisions that are made at the top. Right. So you know who you invest in and how you develop their careers. Also the kinds of work you take on, the kinds of benefits and remuneration, the kinds of you know, who you hire, of course, but also who you let go.

00:33:30:09 – 00:33:50:14
Nazia Du Bois
It’s very important to look at, you know, who you refuse to let go of because you believe they bring in a perspective that your organization needs and you will do whatever it takes to support them, you know? And unfortunately, often, you know, inclusion stops at just the recruitment stage where people just say, okay, I’ve done I’ve done what I’ve been asked to do.

00:33:50:14 – 00:33:52:08
Nazia Du Bois
Now they’re on their own now.

00:33:53:02 – 00:34:05:02
Philippa White
Yeah, and that’s interesting. Talk to us a bit more about that. What did you learn about diversity and inclusion from the point of view of what you experienced or what you saw with the mass layoffs?

00:34:05:08 – 00:34:29:03
Nazia Du Bois
Well, it’s very interesting position to be in, of course, because I was running a global program to increase creative diversity, senior levels in our industry. I was kind of a representative of that because I was a senior leader in the industry from a diverse background. And then I was affected by the mass layoffs and you know, the language always used, impacted.

00:34:29:16 – 00:35:03:03
Nazia Du Bois
And what I realized quite quickly is that there’s no such thing as a mass layoffs, because everyone is an individual who it very deeply, very personally, very individually. And there is no mass experience of it. Right. However, the policies around layoffs are very one size fits all, unfortunately, and they are designed to be that way too, to not allow companies to be laid bare or vulnerable to legal action or any, you know, any other sorts of complications.

00:35:03:03 – 00:35:23:13
Nazia Du Bois
So essentially tends to be a policy of we’re treating everybody the same where his his policy, his, you know, the way that that we’ve decided to do this. What’s interesting, of course, is that the the Middle piece of diversity, equity and inclusion is the piece that comes into play here. Equity, right? Not everyone comes from the same starting point in life.

00:35:23:13 – 00:35:44:23
Nazia Du Bois
And so when you actually want to achieve equality, you’re going to have to treat people with equity to begin with and to make sure that they are being given the helping hand that they need so that they are starting at the same level or that they’re able to operate at the same level as their peers. Right. And that is often overlooked within the organizational culture when it comes to layoffs.

00:35:44:23 – 00:36:06:06
Nazia Du Bois
It’s very, very clear that the one size fits all layoff model doesn’t really serve those who don’t have the backing and the support of, say, for example, a strong familial network or generational wealth to fall back on or other sources of income or a spouse or a partner that can, you know, be the single income earner for a while.

00:36:06:11 – 00:36:26:02
Nazia Du Bois
And a lot of people from marginalized communities or historically represented communities who are the first in their generation and the first in their culture to be in these sorts of roles. Right. And they’re often the people as the children of immigrants or as first generation migrants themselves. They’re often the people who are supporting large communities. And so when you talk about mass layoffs.

00:36:26:05 – 00:36:45:21
Nazia Du Bois
You have to think about the fact that these layoffs impact different people very, very differently. Some people are going to be absolutely devastated financially and others will actually bounce back quite quickly. And the data is out there to show that women bounce back much, much more slowly. They tend to come back into the workforce at more junior levels than at which they were laid off.

00:36:46:05 – 00:37:16:22
Nazia Du Bois
They tend to be laid off much more. I mean, across the tech industry, layoffs, the mass layoffs that happened just recently between October 2022 and June 2023, I believe 45%. So just about half of the layoffs were women. Now, we know that half of the employees in these companies are not women. Right. So they are massively overrepresented when it comes to being let go, but not when it comes to being sort of retained and supported.

00:37:16:22 – 00:37:33:06
Nazia Du Bois
And so these are things that we really need to think about when we talk about mass layoffs. Who are we letting go? What signal is that giving to to the world and to people who want to join us in the future? You know, are they going to be looked after? Are they going to be protected? And do we actually understand who they are as an individual?

00:37:33:06 – 00:37:53:22
Nazia Du Bois
Well, not just an employee. What do they have going on in their lives? You know, because that needs to be considered when you’re when you’re considering sort of longer. So these are things that I’ve been sort of really thinking about quite a lot over the last few months for obvious reasons. And I have to say, I’m very grateful that I negotiated each time to keep my own company.

00:37:54:03 – 00:38:18:06
Nazia Du Bois
Yeah, go going. But of course, it’s incredibly important to me and this is a lesson that I would give anybody from a marginalized community who works in the corporate world is to never, ever let one single dominant culture organization be your sole source of income because you never know what’s going to happen further down the line. And you are far more dispensable to them then than you realize.

00:38:18:06 – 00:38:35:19
Nazia Du Bois
And you will never be distance yourself. So if you work for yourself for even a small part of your income, you are the person who is betting on yourself. You are training yourself. You are believing in yourself and supporting yourself. And that bet pays off in the long run. Absolutely. However, for some people.

00:38:35:23 – 00:39:02:07
Philippa White
That is such an amazing lesson and message to to give and I and it’s interesting because with a few of the employers that you had in theory, they originally said that you couldn’t continue with your business and you explained that you needed to for these reasons. And they they accepted it. And I think it’s important to push back if you get the know and to explain why it’s important.

00:39:02:16 – 00:39:21:08
Nazia Du Bois
And yes, I think if we’re thinking about equity, then we have to think about it holistically. And, you know, the philosophy of allowing people to stand on their own two feet and make up for the fact that they don’t have that generational wealth and they’re having to build it from scratch now means that you have to see all the ways in which they are being supported to do that.

00:39:21:08 – 00:39:40:17
Nazia Du Bois
And you can’t cut off those ways for them. You have to support them. And so I think the culture is, you know, there is more understanding of this going forward. I mean, there senior leaders certainly at Netflix who also had their own consultancies going on the side, who were very respected for doing that. I really think that that’s something to look out for in organizations.

00:39:40:19 – 00:39:56:04
Nazia Du Bois
Are they coming from a place of scarcity or are they coming from a place of abundance? Are they shutting down and saying you can’t work on anything else? Or are they saying no, the more ideas you bring to our table, the better will all do, you know? So those are things that I will look at much more carefully going forward, as.

00:39:56:04 – 00:40:03:17
Philippa White
Always as is so, so interesting. We have come to the end. But I just I’m curious, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners?

00:40:03:22 – 00:40:16:23
Nazia Du Bois
I love that we touched on the piece about self-reliance at the end, because that’s something that I’m very much sort of thinking about right now. Yeah, you can’t go wrong if you bet on yourself. Is basically, you know is basically it.

00:40:17:13 – 00:40:19:19
Philippa White
Yeah I think that’s a great lesson.

00:40:19:23 – 00:40:41:21
Nazia Du Bois
I mean, at Google there, the resources are incredible. One of the talks that we had was by Venus Williams, who just came to give us a talk on empowerment and being a woman leader and how to embody that. One of the things she said that really, really stayed with me was, I bet on yourself and, you know, you can’t lose.

00:40:41:21 – 00:40:46:18
Nazia Du Bois
And that really has stuck with me. And I absolutely say that that’s my life’s mantra as well.

00:40:46:19 – 00:41:06:02
Philippa White
Yeah. You know what? Totally. And that comes back to self-awareness. You know, don’t be somebody else. Don’t let life be designed for you. Live a life of intention and bet on yourself. Oh, you’ve left me with goose bumps. That’s a sign of a good podcast. So thank you for your time. I hope you feel better tomorrow. I’m happy it’s not COVID.

00:41:06:02 – 00:41:14:00
Philippa White
And just because of vaccines. So you will know you will get better quickly and enjoy. Enjoy your trip for next week until next time.

00:41:14:06 – 00:41:16:23
Nazia Du Bois
Thank you so much. So great to be here. Thank you.

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