I have always believed that different perspectives coming together are what make exciting things happen. Growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, I was fortunate enough to be immersed in a multi-ethnic, multicultural mixing pot from early on, and the cross-cultural pollination always felt easy and natural to me. I grew up eating what we consider “local” food – a crazy mishmash of American, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino cuisines, and things that are unique to Hawaii. A typical potluck would include macaroni salad, steamed “sticky” rice, spam musubi, kimchi, lumpia, and maybe some teriyaki chicken for good measure.
I saw all around me the benefits of cross-cultural pollination: it made for a stronger sense of community, greater respect and intellectual curiosity toward one another as individuals, and a culture that produced some of the most innovative “mashups” in terms of food, music, fashion, and more.
Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.
At RPA, we are fortunate to have the “People First” mantra baked into our history. It’s been in our DNA since we were founded. When our founders first undertook to start an agency together, they knew that people were at the heart of what they would create, and that it would only be through the selection of the right people that the business would grow and thrive. Bill Hagelstein, our CEO, is a firm believer in the doctrine of “servant leadership,” and views his role here as the opportunity to serve and support the Associates, rather than the other way around. That’s why, when we undertook to make diversity an explicit business principle for RPA, we invited every member of the agency to play an active part in the process. The result is RPA Represent.
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RPA Represent is anything but a top-down diversity mandate. It’s a grassroots groundswell built upward from the RPA community as a whole. Through self-selecting working groups focused on everything from women in advertising to black history and culture to LGBTQ inclusion, our Associates determine what Represent means and the work it does.
Being “People First” means recognizing that each unique person has something important to say, and that their beliefs, experiences, skills, and perspective add something special and important to our work and culture. We are talking to a broad spectrum of the population on behalf of our clients, and a homogenous agency population won’t ever afford us the perspective to do that authentically. We need lots of different people, with lots of different viewpoints, so that we ensure that the messages we elevate are ones that speak to a lot of different customers.
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Diversity conversations tend to get really theoretical, but for me, it’s pretty basic – if we all think the same, we’ll always create something that’s already been done. Diversity isn’t just about a skin color or a country of origin – it’s about the unique experiences that shape us and help us become ourselves.
By celebrating diversity here at RPA, we get to showcase the many different voices and perspectives that we have here. Whether it’s a panel discussion, a film screening, a music presentation, a food tasting, or something else entirely, our Associates get to show each other, and themselves, what makes them special, and I love that about this place.
To see more of the work of RPA Represent in action, follow us on our social media channels – and join the conversation.