DEI group Bridge boosts board with new vice chair and agency members

Bridge, a diversity, equity and inclusion trade nonprofit that includes brands, tech and agency diversity leaders across the marketing industry, is expanding its board of directors with a new vice chair, along with executives from agency holding groups and major brands.

The independent trade group will add Yin Woon Rani, CEO and CMO of MilkPEP, as vice chair, plus five new leaders to its board of directors as it aims to increase DEI impact across the marketing industry. The board appointments come from global brands and agencies, including Colgate, E.&J. Gallo, H&R Block, Publicis and Havas Media.

This comes as media agencies, their clients and consumers have pushed to increase DEI efforts across the business. In recent years, agencies have strived to increase diversity and representation internally and expand their client offerings and partnerships outside of the organization — but it has not been without obstacles. From trying to prove and measure impact to criticism over the rate of progress within these companies, many continue to feel challenged in including DEI as a business imperative.

To top it off, there’s been a recent backlash within some companies’ shareholder groups saying there’s been too much focus on DEI and broader environmental, social and governance issues.

Now as agencies and media firms look ahead to 2024, Rani said they hope to help companies make inclusion a part of their operations and find opportunities to grow. Part of the goal is bringing on executives across diversity and marketing roles from a wide range of industries, from Fortune 500 companies to tech startups, Rani added.

“Collectively and collaboratively, we are focused on creating real sustained change in organizations to build a more inclusive industry for all — creating practical and useful offerings shaped by this world-class board and team.”

The additional board members include: Geraldine White, chief diversity officer at Publicis Groupe, Diana Haussling, SVP, GM of consumer experience and growth at Colgate-Palmolive, Jacqueline Crombie, diversity, inclusion and belonging leader at E.&J Gallo Winery, Joy Allen-Altimare, chief revenue officer at Havas Media and Meredith Brace, CMO of XR Extreme Reach.

Founded in 2021, Bridge offers programs and tools using proprietary research, workshops, events to help members measure inclusion and establish wider business practices in DEI. Last August, it launched an Inclusion Maturity Assessment and Capability Building Framework program, called IMAX, to guide brands on measuring their progress. The research on 50 brands found that they were 23 years behind in representing the racial diversity of the U.S., based on Census data. Bridge currently has 28 corporate member companies, including NBCUniversal, WPP and Nielsen.

Some holding companies, like Publicis and Dentsu, release their internal diversity program metrics publicly. Others from IPG’s UM to Guided By Good are also starting to publish diversity reports annually. But as White pointed out previously, the agency’s diversity goals also need to involve the client side, teams and brands — which can be challenging at such a large scale for a parent organization of 100,000 globally.

In June 2022, Publicis Groupe reported a 17.5% increase in the percentage of non-white staffers compared to 2021, totaling 34.4% across the company. Its global workforce is 51% women.

Agencies are also facing increasing pressure from the outside, as clients want to see the DEI impact sometimes in RFP and RFI conversations, White noted. Guided By Good, parent organization of agency 22Squared, is also trying to further develop its inclusion and diversity practices on the client and supplier level, noted Janis Middleton, evp and executive director of inclusion strategy.

“We’ve got to bring the clients on because we had to clean up our own backyard,” Middleton previously told Digiday. “You can’t get the blind leading the blind, and can’t guide people if we don’t even know what we’re doing.”

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