My favourite sessions at CES this year that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

Katy Eng
By Katy Eng | 7 February 2024
Katy Eng, OMG national head of diverse

I’ve never been hugely interested in CES, I must admit. To me it’s seemed like a big song and dance about the newest robot and ‘smart-this-or-that.’ Things that haven’t seemed realistic or useful in my day-to-day life.

This year though, as Head of Diverse Media for OMG, I was enticed by headlines integrating diversity, equity and inclusion with a technological lens, and  in case you haven’t had a chance to dedicate time to the recordings, I thought I would summarise my favourites here. If it piques your interest, please give them a watch/listen and let’s all try harder to make our companies and our advertising more inclusive in 2024.

The first session I’ll mention is The Evolution of the Chief Diversity Officer a title that Australia, and media specifically, has woefully few of despite it being one of the most diverse places in the world. As of 2022, 74% of U.S. companies on the S&P500 had a Chief Diversity Officer. In Europe, it’s 53% of FTSE100. In Australia it’s just 23%.  


Now this panel was a little light on tech-speak and more a look at how the CDO role has changed and what insights the panellists were able to share from their roles at Amazon, GM and… a water sports/boating company (I tried to keep an open mind). 


The speakers really hit the nail on the head for me when they talked about how DEI has moved on from focusing predominantly on diversity to now emphasising inclusion and equity as the most important goals to really change lives. As one panellist put it best, “Representation is really [the] price of entry.” I wholeheartedly agreed when I wrote this article in June 2022 and I agree even more a year and a half later.

Inclusion and equity need a couple of things though, the panel raised. First of all, every company needs to be gathering intelligence about minority employees, all the time. Staff surveys are too infrequent and often leaders don’t have the analytics to slice the data and compare if different segments (women vs men, white people vs Asian people, neuro-typicals vs neuro-divergents, etc.) have equitable experiences at work. Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s), anonymous hotlines and focus groups, are vital to providing real-time and consistent feedback. They allow a company to see what they would have otherwise missed regarding its minority staff, and great companies should be obsessed with creating great experiences for staff.

The second group of things needed for inclusion and equity were bucketed together: policy, systems and structures – and importantly – they should be in line with the way leaders already do business to make it more organic and sustainable. The panel advised to think about DEI through your company’s obsession. If your company is obsessed with safety, then how can every single person be as psychologically and physically safe as possible, no matter their abilities, background, gender? If you’re obsessed with customers, are you equally obsessing over every customer? Or just the segments you’re traditionally used to catering for?

The panel also spoke about something that has been worrying me since the phrases ‘Cost of Living,’ ‘Inflation’ and ‘Recession’ bubbled up last year. And that’s the backslide of DEI within orgs and threats to senior diversity roles in the markets where it’s made the most gains. Whether it’s due to fatigue or tightening purse strings, it’s scary to see the efforts made during the ‘window in time’ post-George Floyd’s murder slowly slip away. 


OK, second up is a shameless plug for the Omnicom Chief Equity and Impact Officer (yes for equity!), Emily Graham. 

This is just a 10-minute interview of Emily who shares some inspiring sound bites on DEI, AI, and things that aren’t just letters like ‘radical collaboration.’ This, she argues, is the key need for DEI – to help facilitate the future of working where we will need to collaborate across countries, languages and backgrounds to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. True collaboration isn’t possible without two or more entities coming together on equal playing fields. This being CES and AI-obsessed, Emily also talks about how AI holds a mirror up to society and the corresponding diversity, equity and inclusivity of that society, as well as how tech is enhancing DEI efforts.

It’s just 10 minutes and worth a watch, although I am (consciously) biased. 


The third video I really enjoyed was also a panel, this time focused specifically on Neurodivergent people in tech (but with fantastic tips and advice that can help Neurodivergents in media and beyond). I highly recommend this video as an entrée to those of us seeking to understand this pillar of diversity more.

As with all good panels, the Salesforce and IBM speakers are themselves proudly in the community, and graciously offer us 40 minutes of a) what their ND experiences are and what it can look like as well as b) some real applicable tips and accommodations we can make for our ND staff.

Neurodiversity is interesting in that it isn’t typically visible. Very few people probably know that 1 in 7 of us (14%) are neuro-divergent. This can include innate and acquired conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and OCD which are innate and something like PTSD which is acquired. As someone who suffered PTSD as a result of a bullying manager in New York many years ago and can still be triggered by certain behaviours, this was an eye opener for me.

The panelists touched on the benefits of neurodiversity in our world and workforce - ND’s typically have higher creativity, productivity and company loyalty – all things we should be fostering and encouraging in a time of hyper-competition and instant gratification. For the life of me, I simply can’t understand how many more stats we need to see telling us that diversity in all its forms is BENEFICIAL for us as humans AND for bottom lines and yet we still see so much inequity and exclusion… but I digress.

The panelist from IBM urges us to raise Awareness but “Don’t stay here long. Being only aware can be discriminatory.” We are encouraged to move beyond Awareness to Acceptance and, importantly, Advancement where we create environments that allow all people to thrive.

So much of the advice given is easily implemented and absolutely free. Things like: letting people sit away from high traffic or distracting areas, using noise cancelling headphones and providing meeting transcriptions. These are accommodations but, more importantly, they are success enablers. The same way glasses are for those of us who are near-sighted.

Overall, there were some key takeaways at CES in regards to DEI and how tech can enable media to be at the forefront of inclusivity. One of my favourites being, “When you build for the margins, you benefit the masses.” 

It’s not revolutionary behaviour but I’d like to see us re-commit ourselves to inclusion and equity in 2024. Watching some of these videos is a great start. I hope you enjoy. 

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