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“Multiple points of view drive innovation”

Licensing International brings industry together to discuss diversity and inclusion and how companies can take authentic action.

Diversity and inclusion is not a strategy, it’s a value; multiple points of view drive innovation; and paying attention to how you communicate with potential candidates for job roles were just some of the viewpoints to come out of an open discussion on fostering diversity and inclusion in the industry hosted by Licensing International earlier this week.

The trade body hosted its first Diversity & Inclusion Workshop on Monday August 3, bringing together some of the leading minds in licensing and retail to discuss the challenges and opportunities that companies face as they look to enhance diversity and inclusive practices in their workforces and culture.

Findings from a benchmark study of diversity in the licensing industry – carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and commissioned by Licensing International – highlighted that while 30% of companies surveyed currently have a D&I programme in place, just 10% have budgeted financial support to them.

“If you don’t measure, you don’t have any substantive understanding of where things stand or a benchmark by which to gauge success,” commented Maura Regan, president of Licensing International. “This research is the crucial first step in creating real, lasting change in our companies and the global licensing community as a whole.”

You can download the full D&I research study from the Licensing International website.

Two licensing industry executives – Steven Wolfe Pereira, ceo and co-founder of Encantos, and newly elected Licensing International board member, and Tariq Hassan, chief marketing officer at Petco – also discussed what it means to create an organisation which is truly inclusive and how to go about doing it.

“You cannot only do this from executive-level down,” commented Tariq. “If you want to tell people to bring their authentic selves to work, you’ve got to allow them to have a place to express it, and you’ve got to allow it to then influence the decisions of the company You don’t have to ask for permission to be who you are – we have to create a culture that celebrates that insistence.

“When you put it that way, it stops being about what’s wrong, and it focuses on the energy and creativity of what’s right.”

During a special panel session, Bryony Bouyer, svp of diversity and inclusion and multicultural strategy at Hasbro, commented: “We always like to say that diversity and inclusion is not a strategy, it’s a value. Each of us own it differently. This doesn’t work if our middle managers in particular aren’t driving it.

“At the end of the day, multiple points of view drive innovation, which drives dollars.”

Fellow panelist, Eric Ueno, svp of human resources at Hot Topic, focused on the hiring process saying that one key element was “paying attention to how you communicate with potential candidates – images, social posts, the words that you use, that those words reflect the goal of the diversity and inclusion and belongingness in your organisation”.

Dolores Ordas, vp of people and culture, and Cindy Levitt, svp of licensing, both from Mad Engine, highlighted that transparency was key, with Cindy pointing out: “For everyone to really embrace it, we have to have an open forum internally to discuss it.”

With much of the conversation focusing on how companies can start to take action, Licensing International has shared a new Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit, which has been developed in conjunction with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

For the next month, Licensing International is making the Toolkit available to the global licensing community at large, after which time it will continue to be available to members and partner trade organisations. You can find out more by clicking here.

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