Diversity & Inclusion Blog Series: A Q&A on the importance of Diversity & Inclusion in the Digital Advertising Workplace with IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee

Across the month of April, IAB Europe kick-started key topics of corporate responsibility in the digital advertising industry. A lack […]
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Across the month of April, IAB Europe kick-started key topics of corporate responsibility in the digital advertising industry. A lack of understanding and accountability on key issues such as the environmental and economic impacts of digital advertising and the need for more diversity and inclusion across our ecosystem is more apparent today than ever before. 

Our series discussed and debated what’s happening in our industry currently, why it’s important that we take action now and what needs to be done to take responsibility and ensure a great future for digital advertising. 

To continue the conversation, we caught up with some of the members of IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee, to discuss diversity and inclusion under the theme of recruitment and the workplace in digital advertising. We explore what some of the biggest challenges and opportunities are, talk about what companies can do to embrace more diversity in the workplace and assess what we can all do to ensure more diverse talent is included in the digital advertising ecosystem. 

A Q&A with:

Gosia Adamczyk, Head of HR, Verve Group



Michael Olaye, Senior Business Development Manager, Integral Ad Science (IAS)



Kris Smith, VP, Global People Experience, DEI & Belonging, DoubleVerify



Q1. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges when you think about diversity and inclusion in the workplace? 

Gosia - “There are several challenges I can think of in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. First, managers and team members often don’t realise that they are being non-inclusive – they use non-inclusive language due to old habits, they make hiring decisions based on unconscious bias, and they tend to be closer and promote team members that are like themselves. The more educational initiatives we introduce in the organization, the more inclusive the workplace will become.

Another major challenge is the fact we’re sometimes simply missing the diverse talent in the market. This is a more complex issue, and we should think about the solution by investing in education and supporting junior talent.”

Michael - “Diversity by its very definition cannot just be one event or activity. Across the industry, there is an ever-increasing commitment to champion DE&I as a movement.

However, there is still much more to be done. As the WFA pointed out in their recent DEI guide, much is being done to improve the representation of women, but the industry should be doing more in promoting much broader inclusion. The challenge lies in harnessing environments and workplaces that are intrinsically inclusive - where people from all walks of life feel safe and the opportunity to have a voice. This represents an opportunity because a diverse work team achieves a better result than one in which the same point of view is present. It’s not just about gender, race, age, or ethnicity - it’s about all of them and more. DEI efforts are always a work in progress, and there's much more to be done to truly reflect our multicultural society as a whole.”

Kris -There are numerous challenges, many of which create significant roadblocks to progress. Often we hear how companies are evaluating sourcing strategies to attract talent from different backgrounds and bridge representation gaps in their organisations, but  - we hear less about how they will retain this talent and set them up to thrive.  In many cases, these same organisations continue to operate with programs, policies, and processes that leave room for bias, discrimination, and exclusivity. They are not set for success in furthering diversity and inclusion in the workplace because their company culture and environment are not designed for this talent to thrive in. Progress can be made, but it will take focus and commitment to drive foundational change. Organisations need a plan for supporting this talent after they get them in the door.”

Q2.  What are the biggest opportunities available today for more diversity in the workplace?

Gosia - “I believe creating educational programs for juniors or people that want to switch their career paths especially targeted to reach a diverse audience is something that will not only benefit us in a few years, but also support society. We should focus not only on solving our hiring problems and positioning ourselves as an inclusive organisation, but on solving a global issue and ensuring we’re building a better future for future generations.”

Kris - “Create an environment where people who are not in the majority will also thrive. Our success in improving representation gaps relies on both our ability to recruit AND retain talent from underrepresented groups. Sustainable progress starts with ensuring inclusive and equitable policies, processes, and programs. We also need to invest in developing managers at all levels to ensure they have the skills and tools to be inclusive leaders. This is one of our biggest opportunities - create environments designed to embrace and foster diversity starting with those who manage others.”

Q3. What do you think companies should do to embrace more diversity & inclusion in the workplace, to ensure it is the new normal and not just a box tick exercise?

Gosia - “First of all, top management needs to understand the benefits of having diverse talent in the organisation. Diverse personalities, opinions, and backgrounds help us to notice a different angle and give us an opportunity to have healthy discussions and develop ourselves.

When management notices the true advantages, the urge to hire diverse talent and build an inclusive workplace will be authentic. With this authenticity as a foundation, we can work on educating different layers of the company and adjusting our people processes to match the need.

If top management doesn’t see the benefits and the real need for hiring and retaining diverse talent, the D&I initiatives will not be as effective as they could be.”

Michael - “Companies have a significant role to play to ensure inclusivity is at the heart of workplace environments, both in the office and in virtual environments:

  • Make sure you walk the talk internally. Recruit diverse new talent and champion their personal development to retain and promote them.
  • When employing young talent, have strong mentors who will champion their development at the company.
  • Be progressive from the beginning of your recruitment process. Make sure that your job descriptions are unbiased and do not imply an ideal candidate as being of a particular gender, ethnicity, etc.
  • Create a culture that is committed to hearing all voices and taking on feedback. Ensure you seek out feedback from underrepresented groups – don’t wait for them to feel comfortable speaking up.
  • Be considerate of workplace language: not ‘disabled people’, but ‘people with disabilities’; ‘parental leave’ rather than ‘maternity leave’; ask for people’s pronouns in the office and consider including them in email signatures. Unconscious bias that perpetuates stereotypes, such as calling people of colour ‘too loud’, ‘too aggressive’, or calling women ‘bossy’ (this extends to dress, hairstyles) have damaging consequences that should be educated on.
  • Review your Equal Opportunities policies regularly to ensure that they reflect best practice.”

Kris - “This is a great question. I think this is about shifting perspective, setting expectations, and equipping all levels of leadership, including the executive team. If the goal is for D&I to be a core component of the workplace, it should be embedded as a part of your business strategy. It should be a clear expectation that every department, function, and person in the organisation fosters an inclusive environment. Leaders should be provided with the tools to lead inclusively and the understanding they are expected to do so. There should be a clear and visible connection to company values as well as business goals. Overall, this is about demonstrating diversity and inclusion is not separate initiative but a core part of the organisation’s culture and identity.”

Q4. What steps are you or your company taking to bring on more diverse talent in digital and programmatic advertising? Have you seen any examples of companies that are doing this well?

Gosia -The game-changer for us was when we decided to start recruiting globally and support relocation of the talent from different parts of the world. It helped us to naturally become more diverse as a team. We’re building intercultural awareness by speaking about differences in the communication styles, showing people diverse cultures, celebrating global holidays, and ensuring we’re being inclusive in our language and behaviors. 

Speaking about the recruiting process, we work on our job descriptions to ensure we use inclusive language. We also include different team members in the process to ensure we’re showing a candidate an opportunity to talk to a diverse team and get answers to potential questions about being an inclusive organisation, and get a fair evaluation of the candidate.

Speaking about the future, we’re planning to start intense educational programs too. We want to conduct training on how to handle unconscious bias during the interview process, and we want an intercultural communication workshop to be a part of our standard onboarding process, to name a few initiatives we’re currently working on.”

Michael - “We consider all qualified applicants without regard to race, colour, nationality, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age. We strongly encourage women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA community, people with disabilities, and veterans to apply.

Inclusion unlocks the potential for innovation and helps everyone. At IAS we celebrate the beautiful tapestry of cultures, backgrounds, and rich traditions that comprise us all. While there are differences and similarities to acknowledge and celebrate, we must also find time to educate ourselves and demonstrate our commitment through our core value of #oneteam. 

We achieve this through our recruitment teams and Inclusion and Diversity Council - which upholds this company value by championing our inclusion and diversity strategies, ensuring progress towards our goals. 

Great initiatives from other companies include the GroupM Media Inclusion Initiative, pledging that at least 2% of its total annual media budgets will be invested in diverse media companies and creators. 

Also The Women in Programmatic network that provides opportunities and support for women in the programmatic and advertising technology industry, pushing to eradicate the gender pay gap. 

Brixton Finishing School is such a great initiative. They are on a mission to create an inclusive ‘talent’ blueprint for our homogenous industry. Their free 10-week programme for 18-25s students from underprivileged and diverse backgrounds delivers a premium learning experience through a mixture of lessons and real-world advertising experience.”

Q5. What Diversity & Inclusion initiatives has your company implemented that have worked well and resonated with you?

Gosia - “We’ve started speaking more about the language. Often, we don’t realise that language is a powerful tool – it shapes reality and can make people feel excluded even without having wrong intentions.

We are now talking about inclusive communication. We are careful about designing messages and we raise awareness across the team.”

Micheal - Diversity & Inclusion initiatives should be seen as a journey - whilst there are great initiatives taking place, there is constantly still more work to do, both in the workplace and in wider society. 

We have a variety of ERGs operating across the globe, encouraging and providing a nurturing environment for employees to share their experiences and introduce others to their cultures. These include IAS Women, BIND (Black Integral Network Domain), IAS PRIDE (LGBTQIA+), ASIAS (Asian Society IAS), IAS Working Parents, VIVA (Verificación integrando y vinculando los Américas), and STAR (Introverts - Social, Thinking, Anxious, Restrained). The ERGs champion and celebrate IAS talent from individuals through education, connection, and community support. The belief of each ERG is to provide IAS employees with the confidence to be their authentic self. Members of these groups can expect to develop connections by networking with other like-minded individuals at IAS on similar missions, promoting well-being through wellness activities, and accessing educational and professional development opportunities. 

For example, our ERG hosted Asian Heritage and Women’s History Month to celebrate diversity through profiling of teams, cultural events or workshops. Recently, teams at IAS helped deliver #IamRemarkable (#IAR) workshops empowering underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.

IAS took part in the Per Scholas’ training, working with aspiring technologists to improve their communication skills, learn about key technical content, and better understand varied corporate cultures. Through the interactions, candidates were able to learn more about a corporate environment and gain valuable practice speaking with a working professional.”

Kris - The first two cohorts of our DEI council focused on introducing inclusive programming to celebrate and educate on awareness months and initiatives, they created an inclusive language toolkit, and laid the groundwork for our employee resource groups, starting with the launch of our first one, which was Women@DV. We recently enhanced several policies after an inclusive policy review, including expanding parental leave globally.”

Q6. What is the one thing you think we can all be doing now to ensure more diverse and inclusive talent is represented in digital and programmatic advertising?

Gosia - I think we should team up and make educational programs available for diverse talent in order to allow them to enter digital and programmatic advertising. We should think about the future and work together, not under one company’s name only, but holistically as an industry.”

Michael - Firstly, companies must look internally to assess what more needs to be done. This can be achieved through surveys and employee engagement analysis exercises that truly understand the makeup of companies. 

  • From this, they should look at the hiring and HR procedures in place and consider broadening recruitment. 
  • Mentor new employees and invest in their development, giving them all the opportunities to succeed. 
  • Finally, partner with programmes and organisations who help underrepresented groups fill roles in tech.” 


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