Diversity and inclusion have been the hot topics of conversation in the digital marketing industry since George Flloyd’s murder last summer. The industry has traditionally been very male and very white, at least in terms of which voices are amplified, celebrated, and listened to.
Meet two women who are working hard to change that.
Rejoice Ojiaku is the Global SEO Account Manager at Neo Media World, an agency that has worked with brands like HSBC, Nestle Waters, and more.
Wilhemina Gilbertson is an SEO Specialist at Reload Digital, the #1 rated agency for eCommerce and retail brands, serving Wrangler, Yamaha, and HarperCollins, just to name a few.
Together, they are both the founders of B-DigitalUK, a digital marketing platform designed to inspire and showcase Black talent in the digital marketplace. They celebrate Black people in the marketing community, offer workshops on various marketing skills, highlight job opportunities, and share profiles of Black digital marketers that are crushing it.
If you’re hoping to be part of a movement to make our industry better, this is the podcast to catch.
- [2:05] About B-DigitalUK.
- [7:29] Common challenges faced by Black people in the digital marketing industry.
- [15:02] Recommendations for Black marketers who want to get into leadership positions.
- [21:00] Advice for executives who want to build more diverse companies.
- [25:14] The “right now” cause is a lifelong cause.
Rejoice introduces B-DigitalUK by telling us the idea was born at a Women in Tech SEO conference.
“We do love that there’s a platform for women in SEO in general, but when we’re there, we’re noticing, as a lot of Black people do, that we were the only Black people in the room.”
This led them to start thinking about a forum to promote Black people, a place where Black industry leaders could talk about marketing and advertising.
“We didn’t want to make it exclusive to just SEO. We wanted to branch out to many channels. We wanted a space for other Black people to be educated, inspired, and to showcase other Black talent. It sort of morphed into this amazing thing that is now part of this diversity and inclusion conversation.”
“We had no idea where it was going to reach. All our platforms have been growing. Every time we’ve been presented with a new place we’re like: yes. Let us present this message. Let us show what we’re trying to do. Let us let people know we want to create this space for Black people.“
She wants Black listeners to be aware this space has tools to help foster growth.
“People like you exist. They are there.”
Wilhemina said when she started in digital Rejoice was the only Black marketers she knew.
“I want people who are starting, just like me, to have confidence for that new job.”
Common Challenges Faced by Black People in the Digital Marketing Industry
Rejoice says the main challenge for her was figuring out how much of her authentic self to bring into the corporate environment.
“Do I be me? Or to be accepted do I have to limit myself for the fear of not being marked as aggressive? Around my friends, I’m this loud person, this over-the-top person. Of course, you have to be professional, but I didn’t know how to warm up to colleagues because I was afraid they’d tag me as having too much sass in my voice.”
She mentions other challenges that Black people face when it comes to managing perceptions.
“What hairstyle are you going to go in? Do I go in with braids? Do I go with my natural hair? Do I go with a wig? I had to learn to say: forget all that. I just have to be me. I don’t know who else to be. If that’s an issue then this place isn’t right for me.“
Rejoice does stress that it’s never been an issue at Neo.
“Even before you get into situations, always beforehand it’s a question of: what am I going to expect? A Black person will never bring 100% of themselves to the office. Before you encounter that it’s the fear of encountering that. How can I stop it from happening? It quote-unquote cripples us in our spaces.”
She says many Black people do not want to give energy to microaggressions.
“My advice would be, you have to understand that for yourself. You have to come to that realization that if being who you truly are is something you want, you really have to show it in this company without the fear of being labeled or experiencing microaggressions. You have to look at the company structure. You have to ask if they’re truly diverse, not just in a few teams having one Black person, but in leadership down.”
She says the English have probation periods for new employees and really urges employees to take advantage of it.
“The probation period is not only for companies to see whether you’re a fit for the role. It’s if they’re going to be a good fit for you. If you’re experiencing things in a few months, there’s something going on. Maybe consider looking for another company. But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care about all those things, is just happy to face it, you can absolutely stay and tough it out.”
She points out that not every Black person wants to be an activist in their spaces.
“Some just want to get in and do their jobs.”
Recommendations for Black Marketers Who Want to Get into Leadership Positions
Rejoice says if you want to enter a leadership position you really have to work hard at positioning yourself.
“Use people within the company that you’re working with. Look at people who are where you want to be. What are they doing at that level? Don’t be afraid to ask for similar work. Ask: can I shadow you? Can I do this? Can I do that? A good company will absolutely encourage you to get those extra skills, to get those qualifications, to increase yourself.”
Rejoice says if a company is hindering you in doing that then you shouldn’t hesitate to find a new company.
“If it’s a position you want and you want to be in that position, make your voice heard. It’s not being handed to us. Know that you’ve got the ability. I want to be in this position, I know I’ve done the work, I’m on that path, and if I don’t have that ability what training can I get? What support can I get? Who can mentor me?”
Advice for Executives Who Want to Build More Diverse Companies
“See you’re hiring the same people all the time. Why? Once you challenge the why you can find practical solutions. If you like diversity why is it you’re only liking white people for leadership? Let’s look elsewhere.”She suggests that companies should have a growth plan for people.
“Train them up, especially if they show an interest. That’s a bonus. Definitely, voices need to be heard and they need to be listened to.”Rejoice says she feels like a lot of organizations continue to operate in their comfort zone.
“No change comes from comfort.”She also challenges the SEO industry to stop making excuses for not giving POCs a seat at the table.
“You can’t tell me as an organization you’re finding it difficult to find these people. We’re not here for excuses, we’re here for solutions. There is Black talent.”
What's your right now cause?
Both Rejoice and Wilhemina say that Black Lives Matter isn’t a right now cause for them. It’s their lifelong cause.
“Being Black is always my identity,” says Rejoice.
“The pandemic, the protests that are happening really heightened everything. It was such a unified movement. Black people in a lot of countries were standing together, saying enough is enough, saying how we’re facing the same issues manifesting in different places. In the US, the UK, other parts of the world.”
“I’m seen as Black before I’m seen as anything else. As long as we’re striving to be recognized as people.”
Wilhemina encourages our listeners to donate to Black Lives Matter UK.
Rejoice also says that women’s rights are very important to her as well.
“For me, being a woman is another barrier to getting where I need to get to. Being Black and being a woman play so much in my identity.”