The expo announced that it attracted 1 300 learners with disabilities as well as educators, entrepreneurs, corporate organisations and NGOs.

FCB Joburg and Hellocomputer were included in this number and were the only marketing and advertising organisations to participate in the two-day event in May. 

Khuvutlu says, "[It is] quite simple; we attended the Disability Career Expo with one goal in mind — to encourage young learners with disabilities to consider a career in advertising."

"There are several reasons why we did this. Firstly, as humans we know, we live and breathe the truth that meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion must include all. Second, as marketers and advertising professionals, we believe a diversity of lived experiences makes the currency of our industry — creativity — far richer," adds Khuvutlu.

"Then, as realists, we acknowledge that 'disabled' or differently-abled people are not adequately represented in our popular culture and society. There are many challenges they face, and here lies a tremendous opportunity for authentic brands to make a difference," Khuvutlu adds.

Khuvutlu says, "Finally, as problem solvers, we know that to connect the dots, we need people in our industry with lived experience. In a country as diverse as ours, it is critical that our team reflects that diversity to enable us to create work that resonates with all South Africans."

Khuvutlu pointed out that diversity is part of FCB's DNA and the key ingredient for their ads. 

However, Khuvutlu praised Sarjoo for her initiative in bringing the Expo to the agencies' attention and for advocating they do more to extend the breadth of their diversity, equity and inclusion activities.

"Sarjoo has first-hand experience of the challenges facing persons with disabilities," says Khuvutlu.

"As a mother to a young teenager with mild cerebral palsy, she has challenged their exclusion from mainstream society for over 12 years, at one stage starting and managing a foundation advocating inclusive education. We are very grateful for her passion and willingness to help us do better," Khuvutlu adds.

Sarjoo interjected to add that she is not the only employee in the agency group with family members living with disabilities. This, plus the group's track record of embracing change and leading from the front to redress inequity in the industry and in its workforce, has engendered a positive and open culture.

For example, it was the first in the industry to conclude a broad-based empowerment partner (2003) and is today 51% Black-owned and 43% Black female-owned.

According to Khuvutlu, FCB Joburg and Hellocomputer approach diversity on three levels:
  1. workforce
  2. workplace, and
  3. creative work.
"For workforce, we actively strive to reflect the diversity of South Africa's population, across all levels including leadership. One of the actions we have taken on this front is to take steps to identify disabled learners who would qualify to join our programme. We are also ensuring that leadership adopts innovative ways to foster and retain talent," adds Khuvutlu. 

"In addition, as a group, our employment equity new hires target is set at a minimum of 70% previously disadvantaged individuals for senior management level and 90% of new hires at top-level management must be previously disadvantaged individuals," says Khuvutlu.

"With the workplace, we seek to create a healthy and vibrant environment that is inclusive and engaged, actively rooting out bias and oppression in any form," Khuvutlu adds. "Here, we are committed to open and honest conversations as a group. In 2021, we embarked on a White Allyship Initiative, which flipped the script on engaging our white employees to learn and own how they show up transformed in addressing their own biases, ideas or thinking towards racism and white privilege."

"This then takes us to create work where our aim is to create culturally-competent work and solutions for our clients. This is achieved through our tools such as 'The WOW', or 'Watch Out Words'," says Khuvutlu.

Khuvutlu adds, "The WOW was created to help develop cultural competence and mitigate the negative impacts of unconscious bias in our work. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) issues are easier to discuss when you have the right terminology and context for the conversation."

"The WOW takes the form of a living dictionary that is educational and assists our teams to understand words and concepts like appropriation, objectification and marginalisation. This gives them the ability to accurately debate work and helps us identify damaging work early in the creative process," says Khuvutlu.

"There are so many different ways to make a change and an impact," says Sarjoo. "Sometimes, it's looking inward, others outward. And it's wonderful when we can partner with like-minded clients to make the proverbial difference."

"As a society, an industry and an agency group, we have a long way to go until we can claim to have achieved satisfactory diversity, equity and inclusion. But I am so proud that we are actively engaged on all levels throughout our business," Sarjoo concludes.

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