Derek Walker podcast interview – understanding white privilege, & diversifying boardrooms

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This has to be one of the most thought provoking and powerful episodes I’ve recorded to date. What a way to start Season 2 of the Azeem Digital Asks podcast. Joining me is the incredible Derek Walker, someone that I have looked up to for a long time. 

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(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Derek describes himself as the chief instigator, janitor, secretary and mailroom person for Brown and Browner advertising, and has over 30(!) years experience in the industry as a Black agency founder – as well as being passionate about Diversity and Inclusion.

In this episode, we discuss: 

– Defining White privilege

– What (if any) progress he’s seen throughout the industry when it comes to being more diverse and inclusive

– Why he thinks companies are hesitant to address this

– His response to the critique of “we dont need more black and asian people in the boardroom, we simply need more talented people”

– Where companies can start to address this issue

– What white people can do to better understand their POC colleagues

…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!


Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Derek’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/dereklwalker

Episode Transcript

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to season two of the Azeem Digital Asks, the all-round digital marketing podcast. I’m very excited to bring you this episode and to bring you my guests today. But very quickly I will start as I always start by saying, please like, subscribe rate, share the podcast, tell a friend to tell a friend, and then tell that friend to tell 12 more friends. Right. That’s done. Today we are talking all about understanding white privilege and diversifying the boardroom with the incredible human being, Derek Walker, who the best way to describe him, is I’m literally going to steal his Twitter bio chief instigator, janitor secretary and mailroom person for Brown and Browner Advertising. And full disclosure, when I reached out to Derek… He doesn’t know this, I don’t think. But when I reached out to him, I had massive imposter syndrome because this is somebody who’s probably forgotten more than I’ll ever learn when it comes to this particular topic and diversity and inclusion in general. Somebody I massively look up to. Now I will shut up Derek, welcome to the show.

Derek Walker:
Wow, I don’t recognize that person. Okay. Now I feel like I got to step my game up, man. I got to come with the A game. Hold on. I was going to do a B plus, but we’ll do A now. Good morning. How are you? That was some very kind words, thank you. But because we, people of color suffer with imposter syndrome at a different level, I got to stop you right here and say this, I’m repaying a debt. I was raised by a generation that knew that they would never be well where I am. So they made sure they cleared the road for me. And all I’m doing is repaying that debt by trying to clear the road for folks like you. So there is no imposter syndrome.

Derek Walker:
What I see in you guys is just freaking amazing. I couldn’t do a podcast. My generation struggles with it because we’re wired to work. And I say that a different way. We’re wired to work for somebody. And you guys are striking out doing podcast and doing this, bring you A game. Congratulations and accept your flowers too. I’m happy to be here. It’s my honor. And my privilege. Thank you.

Azeem Ahmad:
That means a lot. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Let’s get right into it. This is a heavy topic, rightfully so. And I definitely wanted to start this season with because I think it needs to be addressed. Before we get into it though, for anybody who shamefully does not know who you are, firstly, in another window, open up social media and follow this man because you will learn heaps. But for those who don’t know who you are, before they follow you. Would you mind giving a short introduction to yourself, Derek?

Derek Walker:
The basics are I’m a copywriter, who happens to own a tiny agency called Brown and Browner. There is no website. That’s a different story for a different time. I don’t believe in putting up a shit website. And I have a vision for what an agency website should be and it’s humongous so there’s no website. I’ve worked in advertising for 30 years now. Dear God, I’m old. On a little bit of everything, last count, I’m above 300 accounts. So and I’m talking Nissan, Subaru, Case Construction, Master Lock, Sub-Zero refrigerators, Radio Shack, the army, the Marines, Popeye’s Chicken, Church’s Chicken, I don’t know how I ended up with so much chicken. McDonald’s, Morningstar. Here’s the coolest part. I worked on Morningstar Farms, which is vegetarian food while being on the McDonald’s account. So both of them had burgers.

Derek Walker:
So I have done everything. And if I haven’t done it, shoot, I’ve done pharma. So yeah, I’ve done a little bit everything. Worked for general market agencies, what we call general market agencies, white agencies my entire career. I’ve come up with a new saying. I was black raised the white trained. So it makes me even more dangerous. And then that means I have a foot in two worlds. But that’s me. I opened Brown and Browner at the best time any human being can ever open an ad agency during the financial crisis of 2008 2009. So this shows you, anybody listening to this, oh this guy’s a genius. Yes, let’s go out and right where the market crashes, and let’s open an agency. But anyway, we’ve been around.

Azeem Ahmad:
I love that. I’m really looking forward to this episode. So we’re literally going to deconstruct understand white privilege and how we can diversify the boardroom. There’s no better place to start. I would love to hear it from you and learn from you, as I will throughout this episode. What is white privilege?

Derek Walker:
Okay. Quite simply, it’s an unnatural advantage. And I’ll say that because it’s built into the system. Doesn’t mean that all white people won’t be poor. Or all white people don’t struggle. It means you struggle differently. I don’t know if you… I’m trying to remember the comedian. Chris Rock. In one of his concerts was talking about being rich, not wealthy, rich. He says, “I’m rich. But I’m black rich.” He’s talking about his house and everything, he goes, “And my neighbor’s a white dentist.” So what in that joke is this insight that Chris Rock making all this money, lives next door to a white dentist. And think about how much money Chris had to make to move in there. And we know no dentist is pulling enough teeth to make Chris Rock money.

Derek Walker:
So when we talk about white privilege, it’s that the systems and the governance is designed to provide an advantage. If I say, tell you a story about the CEO. And you’re thinking about we’re talking about the interaction between them and then I told the CEO, “No,” you should have seen the look on his face. No, I’m sorry, you should have seen the look on the CEOs face. What does the CEO look like in your head? 99.9% of us instantly go to a white male. The privilege is that, that is the default image for that position. For leader, white guy, old white guy. Privilege isn’t… People think it’s something overt, but it’s really covert.

Derek Walker:
When you get pulled over by the police, how does the officer talk to you? When you go into bank, to open up a loan or bank account, there in lies, it’s the little subtle things. I live in Columbia, South Carolina. And me of four or five other black business owners have this little joke about banking while black. Advertising just happens to see where you get nice checks from your clients to deposit into your account to do conduct their business. I’ve had the police called on me for depositing the check. And I turned to my white counterparts and go, “When’s the last time you had to answer to the sheriff about putting a check in the bank? Not withdrawing the money.” Because that’s the thing about privilege. Privilege gives you a little foot up, a little extra.

Derek Walker:
And in dismantling or addressing it, we have to acknowledge that it doesn’t, and the insidious thing about privileges it tells poor white people that they can be rich white people. And very few people can become Jeff Bezos, but they’re holding on to that. And it pits poor white people against poor people of color. And when in actuality it should be both of those groups against the rich. But instead is like, so that in itself kills it. Sorry about that, the phone just rang. I hope you didn’t hear it.

Azeem Ahmad:
It’s all good. You’re a busy man, a man in demand.

Derek Walker:
Oh, no. But that’s what privileges. It’s hard to describe because it’s like it’s a concept and in different situations it arises. It’s as simple as a bag of potato chips. I was raised in the south. If I go into a store, and I buy a little single bag of potato chips, I can’t open that bag in the store and start eating. But that seems like a no brainer to every black person I know, every person of color. My white art director partner will open a bag in the store and start eating them. I’m going to pay for him at the register. And I’m looking at him going, “I can’t do that.” So you see, it’s not intentional. It’s built into the system. I’m sorry for the long winded crap.

Azeem Ahmad:
No, no, it’s not crap. And it’s definitely something that will help educate the listeners. Thank you very much for sharing. I wanted to then ask you, it’s an excellent way to set up the rest of the episode. And you mentioned earlier on, you’ve got a vast and varied career in the industry. So I’d love to learn a bit more from you. So during on your own experiences, what progress if any, have you seen throughout the industry, when it comes to being more diverse and more inclusive?

Derek Walker:
We may be more diverse, I don’t think we’re more inclusive. I think we’re less. And I love advertising. So I’m sort of a historian, I know the history of advertising. I won’t say I’m a historian because I can’t rattle off names and dates. But in the ’70s, we had more black and brown senior people of talent at agencies white agencies. Now this went on from the late ’60s, until probably about the mid ’80s. And then something happened in the late ’80s, early ’90s. And those people went away, they open their own agencies, whatever. What we’re seeing now is we have more people of color at the lower levels. And that’s diversity. And I said, it’s part of diversity. Diversity is allowing everyone the opportunity to come in, inclusion is allowing them to grow.

Derek Walker:
So I can’t name, there may be two black CEOs at agencies, one or two of Indian descent, and I’m saying East Indian, India, one Hispanic. So have we really seen in our boards… Oh, dear God our boards. Our boards, our C suite levels, they are devoid of color. So I’ve seen as high and we do the same mistake over and over again, we pretend the problem is that people of color do not know about advertising. But if you really watch TV, or look back at TV, it’s sort of funny, how many shows are about advertising agencies. Even back before you’re young, so you don’t know about Bewitched. But from my generation Bewitched, Darrin the husband was an advertising professional, 30 something come up into the… You just go through this. We even had Mad Men, but we act like only white people watch Mad Men. So what we do is we go entry level.

Derek Walker:
The real problem is in the senior and in the executive level. And that’s what we don’t… Dark secret is I left an agency because on my evaluation they said as long… Well, they didn’t say it on my evaluation. They told my boss who was trying to get me promoted to creative director and they told him as long as I was black, I couldn’t be good creative director. Now what happens with that is think about it, that hinders anyone ever seeing me because I don’t have the title. So we don’t see black creative directors, we don’t see Hispanic group creative directors. We don’t see Asian or women… Well, I’m sorry. I take Asian back. Asians are different. They’re slightly different than this model, unfortunately, but we are no better. We’re talking about it, but we’re not doing that’s the answer.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. Thank you very much for sharing it. So I’m going to sidestep temporarily and ask you this question just off the cuff because it’s something that’s quite prevalent over here, largely driven by my own belief. So I truly believe that of the agencies over here in the UK, that predominantly led by white men, I believe they are solely driven by the bottom line, making profit making money. In a conference talk I did recently, I highlighted that there is 24 billion pounds on the table to be made simply by being more diverse and having a more diverse team. That is one way that I think companies could approach this. But I want to just take a step back and ask you why do you think that companies are so hesitant to address this issue?

Derek Walker:
Because they aren’t driven by money. They’re driven by power. Power does not cede power. Harvard told everyone more diverse companies performed better. The Harvard Business Review said that. And let’s be clear, I’m going to show you a prime example. Rihanna opened Fenty. And I may not be pronouncing it right, don’t come at me and hate me later. Not because the cosmetic industry for the last 30 years hasn’t been told that women have brown and black skin colors, buy more cosmetic products than white women ever will. Now, all her competitors knew this, but didn’t offer the shades. Fast forward, in just a year and a half, she’s a 30 or $40 billion company.

Derek Walker:
Now all of a sudden, all the other companies are offering shades. Maybelline has been in business longer than this child was on the planet. I know that they’ve heard this from black people. I’ve heard they’ve heard this from Hispanic people. If it was all about the bottom line, how could you leave $30 billion on the floor, not even on the table. Understanding that diversity is good for business is a great argument for those people who are open to change. Because it gives them a business. It really does. But first for group of us, and I say us as business people, there are a group of us as business people who can’t get by our biases and our prejudice.

Derek Walker:
So I applaud you pushing that because that’s the business one. The Board of Directors should be listening and going, “Okay. Holy crap. If we’re not talking to black and brown communities, how much money are we losing?” I don’t think it’s ever brought to them that way. But let’s not pretend that business people become less human. If you have a bias, and you don’t like people, it shows in your actions. You can call yourself the best person in the world. But if you have a monolithic, all white team, only willing to speak to only white customers, with advertising that uses only white creatives and white production, folks and everything, nothing you can tell me can say you’re a good person. It’s not strictly business to them.

Derek Walker:
I wish it was. But I think we have to have this argument because boards are driven by that. And boards are different than the people, the CMO and the CEO, they answer to the board. So I think it’s and I’m not just trying to disprove it. What I’m saying is fight smarter then. Some you’re going to change and some you’re not. You can’t convert everyone. You just can’t.

Azeem Ahmad:
Yeah. I appreciate that, and thank you very much for sharing your knowledge over so many years, and the experiences that you’ve seen. It’s definitely a different approach to what I mentioned. One of the reasons why I love this podcast, I love this topic of episodes because I’m convinced the listeners are going to learn, but right now sitting here, talking to you, listening to you, I’m learning myself. So I love it. So thank you very much.

Derek Walker:
Well, I’m learning because see, the UK is a different creature for us. You guys abolish slavery before us. The United Kingdom was included, the Caribbean, and Indian included territories that it brought in an infusion of folks. So there’s for us, this misstep. See, I can’t speak to the UK advertising market because it moves to behave differently from the US. And oddly, so I’m learning. It’s interesting to talk to someone about diversity across this realm. But it’s the same problem. You guys are… It’s just interesting. I’m learning something too because I’m like, “Okay, cool. I got to keep remembering I’m not just talking about US. I’m not just talking about the US.”

Azeem Ahmad:
Yeah. I appreciate that. Thank you. And this definitely won’t be the last time we have a discussion. It’s just this discussion is going to get recorded and put out to the masses. Oh, yeah.

Azeem Ahmad:
So let’s move on, then. We’ve talked in depth about the money on the table. We’ve talked in depth about white privilege. Let’s talk about that elusive boardroom, which you’ve touched on. I mentioned this before we started recording. And I definitely want to get this from you on recording. A popular critique over here is that we don’t need more people of color. We don’t need more black and Asian people in the boardroom. What we need is more talented people. How would you respond to that critique?

Derek Walker:
Bullshit. Okay. First, you can’t get different thought with the same group. It’s harder. You can do it but you got to be open to it. And let’s be totally honest, voyage moves so slowly and so conservatively sometimes. Go back to that quote for me for a second, I’m going to dissect it for you. What was that quote? You don’t need more both black people, more people of color on the boards, right?

Azeem Ahmad:
We simply need more talented people.

Derek Walker:
Okay. Dear white people, let me talk to you for a second. When you break out people of color from talented or qualified, the implication you’re policing on this is that we are not talented or qualified. And that in itself is the misnomer, the lie you have to tell yourself. See, that comment right there is… My first thing would have been, “Wait a minute, how come you’re separating talent from people of color?” If I show up in a room, I’m talented, I know my shit. And the fact that I have survived in advertising for 30 years means I really know my shit. So when somebody says, “Well, we just need qualified people.” That’s a lie because I have been the best qualified in the room several times. And you’re not interested in me. What is it? Is it my hairstyle? Is it the way I dress? It can’t be. So that is a lame behind I’m trying to quit cursing. That’s a lame ass excuse for deflecting. It’s always this argument.

Derek Walker:
First of all, show me that you are qualified to be on the board. Beyond your title, show me that you are as talented as your resume says. And you haven’t been by the thinking if the board is not performing excellent. If the direction of the company is not growing leaps and bounds, then the board is average. And a bunch of average people with titles think that they are superior. The problem is they’ve never had to compete on a level playing field. So they assume that their position, so when we say stuff and this… I’m sorry, but it pisses me off. When people say, “Well, we don’t need more people of color, we need more qualified or talented people.” No, you need more people of color because we see things differently from your week. I am not attend black, I’m not attend white American.

Derek Walker:
I am a black man in America, you have no idea. My experiences are slightly different, but they’re different enough that I can show you what you’re missing. And for us not to, and I say us again, business leaders, for us not to embrace that diversity it’s almost fiscal irresponsibility. And I’ll pick on them and they can come after me. Miracle Whip is a salad dressing here. Understanding the taste palates of different people, it is a staple. For a long time, it has been a staple in the black community over mayonnaise. When you look at their numbers, when you do the research on the numbers, what drives their business is the black community. Potato salad, tuna fish, chicken salad, all the dishes we make with Miracle Whip. We don’t buy as much mayonnaise as we buy Miracle Whip we hold this bread.

Derek Walker:
And I told one of the people at the company, it drives me crazy that the only commercials you produce are with white people. When they’re not the ones buying your stuff. Now they’re starting to talk to black people because guess what came out, Aioli. And Aioli is taking business from mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. Now all of a sudden, you’re desperate. Well, shit, you should have been desperate years ago. So when I hear these sayings, “Well, we don’t need more people of color, we need more qualified,” No, you’re making the assumption that we are not qualified and we’re not talented. When in fact, what it is, is you set up a system where you can’t discover our talent or our qualifications fairly.

Derek Walker:
The boards have to be diverse for simple reason. The customers are diverse, the communities are diverse. And I’m not saying this for feel good. If you want to make more money, and you’ve made all the money you can make out of white folks, guess what? People of color have wallets. It’s good business. So I hate that. I hate that people say that. But what it really is, is it’s an attempt to defuse the argument. And unfortunately, for me, no one says that to me because I hit hard. I’ve just been totally honest people are worried, but that’s a…

Derek Walker:
Listen, if the best qualified was to get the job, the person saying that we should only hire the best qualified wouldn’t have a job. Because the best qualified is probably a woman or a minority. Dear God, women get more higher education degrees than any group. Minorities because they are minorities that they get to a certain level have to struggle and work harder. They know more, they have to know more just to get less. So no, that’s all crappy. I’m going to be mumbling to myself all day. Thank you Azeem. I really needed that.

Azeem Ahmad:
Good. Good. I’m glad. And thank you for sharing this. I appreciate it. And you touched on a comment that we spoke about earlier on before the recording. So in that same survey, an anonymous person of color literally said verbatim that people of color. There’s an old term of here, BAME, which has sort of been retired, black, Asian, minority ethnic, now it’s being referred to as person of color. But they said that BAME people have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition. And you’ve just proven that, that’s an absolute fact, 100%.

Derek Walker:
You can have years and years of stereotyping and denigrating and then think that those lessons aren’t instilled. The sad part is it’s instilled in all of us. It’s why, you see, as soon as people get money, they move out of the communities they’ve grown up in, to go into communities of others. There’s instilled in us this idea that we are less. And when you are less, you have to work harder. If you want to tackle diversity and inclusion, look at not only how you hire, who you hire, but how you hire. Job descriptions. And I’m just going to walk through this real quick because it answers what you’re saying. Asking, when you hire somebody, are you hiring them on the qualifications on the resume? Do they have to have every qualification on their resume? Are you hiring them on their potential to grow to the position, you need them at? That is different between people of color, and whites.

Derek Walker:
Whites are hired on potential, we can grow them to this position. People of color have to have everything on the resume on the job description. That’s one thing. Now fold them into the workforce. Say you hired a person of color, how do you assign work to them? Are you giving them challenging work? Are you allowing them to grow? Can they make mistakes? Once again, this is inclusion now. It’s gone from diversity to inclusion. So inside the organization, if you’re not giving them the opportunity to grow faster, make mistakes, and everyone makes a mistake. So please don’t tell me that crap and mistakes should be fired. No, everyone makes a mistake.

Derek Walker:
And they should be able to learn from it and grow. Unless it’s really just egregious. Then look at how you evaluate those employees for raises and promotions. Their employee evaluations. We place on people of color that they almost have to be supermen and women. And then we… Oh, and by the way, are you paying that well qualified person of color the same, you’re paying that so, so qualified white guy for this exact same position? See, all of these are the layers inside the company that we are the organization that we don’t talk about. The evaluations are real important. I am six feet tall. I’m really fat. And I’m 220 30 pounds, I’m obese. I can’t lean on a table in the discussion. I can’t get animated.

Derek Walker:
I can’t raise my voice. That’s not seen as passionate or confidence. That’s seen as angry or aggressive. When we ascribe these words to an individual, women get it all the time. She’s not professional. She’s not passionate. She’s the B word. You hear arrogant with people of color. You hear confrontational, you don’t hear the good words. People of color are never passionate about their job. They’re never professionals. I’ve sat in a meeting where white creative threw a chair in front of the client, threw a chair. And I’m looking at my boss, and I don’t say anything to my boss in the meeting. I wait till we go sit down. He threw a chair. Hey, you didn’t fire him on the spot. The next time I put my hands on the table or I lean forward I don’t want to get a talk from you about being aggressive.

Derek Walker:
I do not. Oh, he’s just passionate. So what am I if I’m not passionate? People tell me smile in your pictures, so you look more friendly. Looking at my white counterparts. Half of them don’t have to smile in the picture to be friendly. We have got to understand all of these things are… People of color say they have to work twice as hard. No. I got to be Superman. I have to feel no emotions. I have to be able to not express myself fully. I got to be restrained at all time. And then I have to work harder. I’m 57. I thought this would have been gone. That our young people wouldn’t have to do this. But then I get people going… Well, I’ve taught at a couple of universities here in the States. And I’m like, ” Who’s your best student?” Inadvertently, it’s always a white student.

Derek Walker:
And it was just mind boggling. The University of South Carolina School of Journalism, had this young lady, she was like in the top 3% for neurobiology. But she was as creative as all get out. So she wants to be a brain surgeon, but at the same time she’s taking journalism classes to write. And she’s of East Indian descent. And I’m like, “Well, why isn’t she your favorite?” And they’re like, “Oh, she’s good.” I’m like, “No, she’s not good. She’s amazing.” Lily Sally over here is good. Your favorite is good. That child is freaking amazing. And we, as a faculty were having this discussion, and they’re like, “What are you implying?” I’m not implying shit. What I’m saying is, that child is over there getting a degree to be a brain surgeon. And she’s taking our journalism classes and whooping these kids ass and you call her good. Then they get all offended, “Oh, we don’t see color.” Apparently you did.

Derek Walker:
The young lady that’s your favorite is barely making her advertising, getting her advertising work done. We have got to front. And it’s about changing minds. So when we talk about this, I guess it’s why I love that you talk about paying into profit, or revenue. But part of it is also we’ve got to address how people think about us, how we think about ourselves. Do you feel bad if you work only 38 hours in a week as a person of color? It’s like, can you take vacation, and time off and feel good about yourself? You should be able to. But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about something about work. We’ve created a cage for us. And we let society create more. We’ve got to let us out of part of that cage. I’m not a fan of imposter syndrome. I understand it. But I think it’s part of that why we have to work twice as hard. And it’s killing us. We never talk about mental health. Dear God, our people of color in advertising or anything need mental health services. Take care of yourself.

Azeem Ahmad:
100% couldn’t agree more. I am actually trying to get somebody to come on to the show who is a black mental health therapist because it’s a massive, massive subject, which I think is incredibly, incredibly important. You’ve just shed even more wisdom there. Thank you very much.

Derek Walker:
Sorry about the rumble.

Azeem Ahmad:
No, no rumble away. I think is incredibly educational. And I’ve always said, I’ve probably even said it on a recording. I don’t care if only one person is listen to this episode, or 100 people listen to this episode. I’m getting immense value from this. And the added bonus is that other people get to as proxy of this because I’ll release it for other people to listen. That aside. I would love to hear from you in terms of we’ve touched on a huge amount of topics there. We call the episode understanding white privilege and diversifying the boardroom. If there are people listening to this predominantly white people, leading agencies leading company in those positions of power, where can these companies start to address this issue?

Derek Walker:
I think they have to expand their board in their C suite. And please for the love of god don’t tell me you can’t. I’ve seen boards add people simply because somebody was interesting. Now they may add two so they keep an odd number, but they add people. And they add them and create new roles. The C suite has been expanding for the last two decades. When I first got in there into business, the C suite was only four or five positions. How many C suite positions are there now? So what we say is, “Well, we don’t have any open positions on the board or the C suite.” Fucking make it. You run it, make a damn position, but make it a position with power. The next C suite position that I really don’t want, but we need is a DE and I position. But understand, I’m talking about it being full blown C suite.

Derek Walker:
That means that person has hiring and firing power. That person has a budget and a team under them. They have a set of goals and objectives that they have to meet and obtain. I may just be another pretty brown face. But I understand how C suite works. So we’ve hired DE and I people who can’t hire and fire, can’t set goals and objectives for the departments, have no budget, and no team. But they’re supposed to save the organization from itself. Watch what happens if you do this. If the CEO who’s over operations says, “Everyone will turn in timesheets every Friday. And those of you who have a department with a rate of less than 85% on timesheets being turned in on Friday, will have an issue.” Now they go for five weeks. And this one department has 20%, can the CEO fire that manager? Yes.

Derek Walker:
That’s the power. It falls in their privvy. It falls under. A DE and I person needs that kind of power to turn to the creative department and go, “You will become more diverse.” Here’s the plan, you have a year. So when the executive creative director goes, “I don’t want to do that.” Then guess what? The DEI person doesn’t have to talk to anybody. They should, but they have the power to affect this person’s employment status. Now I get there’s power behind that position as a true C suite position. I’ve gotten on the elevator with the CEO of Radio Shack when I worked for Radio Shack. And we’re riding up and he goes, “Some of that stuff you did that was pretty cool. Can you do so and so and so for me?” Yes. I am not going to say no. Can he fire me in that elevator? Yes, he can.

Derek Walker:
The DE and I person needs to be able to have that kind of power to affect change. So what you can start with is add to the board, add positions. See what everyone says is we’ve got to wait for an open board position. No, you don’t, create one. We got to wait for an open seat C suite position. No, you don’t, make one. We got chief intellectual officer. What is that? Come on. You just go to some of these C suites and look so the first part is to start. And no young person is going to come into an organization that doesn’t have people in leadership that looks like them, and honestly believe that they can ever advance. There’s no one there that understands, nobody there to shepherd them along, nobody there that they can get advice and that understands their journey. So why should they be loyal to a company?

Derek Walker:
This starts at the top it works down. Stop hiring entry level, hire senior and an executive level and work your way down. I think the president, the CEO or the chairman of the board, all three actually have to own the DE and I. And if any of them ever says we will be more diverse, and it doesn’t have to be a quota. It’s not a quota. It’s the idea that we’re going to change our behavior. And an employee says, “I don’t believe in this and I’m not going to do it.” That employee is fired. He is not going coach and counseling and write up some, they’ll fire them. Send a statement, either you’re serious about this or not. When policies, I think did, Marcel, their AI, the holding company did the AI. The CEO of the holding company said, we will no longer enter award shows. Not one agency said, “Yes, we will.” Everybody stopped.

Derek Walker:
You have to have leadership say we will be more diverse and mean it. Again, pulling this off on a new hire. You guys built a company for five six 20 years, I don’t know how long in a culture and you’re going to bring somebody from the outside to fix it, with no power? No. Starts at the top. I’m hard on leaders because I think leaders are the ultimate servants. And they’re not there to be worshiped, they’re there to serve. Most leaders don’t even make a damn product or provide service. It’s their job to make our jobs easier. So damn it, lead. Start there. Look, you’re talking about people make six. High six and high seven figures and some eight, nine figures, you’re not smart enough to realize that you got to take the lead on this. That’s a bullshit. Oh, come on.

Azeem Ahmad:
Yeah.

Derek Walker:
I’m sorry.

Azeem Ahmad:
Completely agree. You don’t have to apologize. I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, you literally mentioned a couple of things that I shared in a conference talk recently. And I think you put it far better than I did. I’m completely on board with having somebody DEI person in the boardroom, but with the right responsibility. One of the things that I said was that every single person in that room, every leadership bonus is linked to those initiatives because as you mentioned earlier on, I’ve mentioned it in the past, we’ve talked about it a lot. We know that people of color, and women or women who are of color are not being paid fairly. If they’re not being paid fairly, then neither should the leadership.

Derek Walker:
Yeah.

Azeem Ahmad:
The second thing I’ll say is that you mentioned rightly shouldn’t be a quota. I think companies need to. Some companies do this. I think companies need to once a year release detailed yearly diversity data because that’s where the accountability comes in. Some companies just brush the surface saying 4% of our employees are from minority backgrounds. Some companies really break it down at every level. And that’s where you see the difficulty come in. The only last thing I’ll say on that-

Derek Walker:
No, no, no. We got to go back to what you did because this is very important. You broke women of color out from women.

Azeem Ahmad:
Yes, literally, that is exactly what I was about to say. So once a year here in the UK, it trends towards the end of the year that this is the day that women effectively start working for free. And it’s all over social media, there are probably PR campaigns to death. This is the day that women work for free because they’re paid less than men. So let’s put that on one side. On the other side, we know that people of color are paid less than their white counterparts. Nobody ever talks about if you’re a black woman because you’re already paid less than your white counterparts, but as a woman, you’re already paid less than your male counterparts. But nobody ever talks about that. So that 100% needs to be addressed. But I’m positive you’ll put that in a far better way than me.

Derek Walker:
It’s a little thing I’ve been playing with called the hierarchy of diversity. White men are first. See, I get so upset because women of color thought that when the me too movement came it included them. Well, if you look at advertising, it didn’t include them. They did the work. But the white women get the jobs. So when we talk about diversity, and white, blacker, everybody’s included in diversity. That’s the first misnomer. And so here’s the hierarchy real quick, and this is the preference of hiring white men, white women, Asian men, Asian women. Now, here’s where something interesting happens. We go black women, Hispanic women, Hispanic men, black men. See what happens is, and when you start now… And I’m talking about advertising. Advertising is a different creature than other industries.

Derek Walker:
So forgive me, but I know advertising. What ends up happening here is we go counter to how the pay works breaks down because pay breaks down here in the United States like almost the exact same. Actually goes white men, Asian men, white women, Asian women, black men, black women, Hispanic women, Hispanic men, Hispanic women. So when we start talking about pay inequities, what we do is we talk about it as a whole. But we’re really talking about white women. We don’t understand that if a white man is making $1, in a white woman is making 76 cents, then a black man is making 69 cents, and a black woman is making 63. And Hispanic man is making 60, probably 60. I’m making these up. But you see what happens it’s all the hierarchy. So by the time you get down to some of us, we’re not breaking even.

Derek Walker:
So we have to your point, we have to talk about it. But we have talked about it in relationships to different groups because different groups are valued differently. So that’s why it tickled me when you broke out women of color because women of color should be women, but they’re not, just like men. But it’s so funny when, not funny, but it’s interesting. The young lady Zoe, did you see Zoe’s essay on all the other women that were harassed and everything?

Azeem Ahmad:
Yeah. Painful.

Derek Walker:
And the whole conversation. Everyone’s saying, “Men should do this. And men should do that. And men do this and that.” And I’m sitting there going, I want to raise my hand. I’m like, I can’t even look at a white woman sideways, and not be fired. And that’s not to say, we haven’t had bad actors of color, we have. But they get punished quick, fast and in a hurry. So when we talk about men, we talk about men as one monolithic group, but we’re really talking, sadly, this comes back to white privilege. We’re talking about white man’s behavior. And the dynamics of this is just horrible. I have been treated badly at our agency. And I’ve seen white women treated badly at the same agency. But those same white women treated me badly. So I don’t even know what call it except it’s almost like we’ve set each group against each other. And I don’t know. Have you ever seen Blazing Saddles? The movie?

Azeem Ahmad:
I have not, unfortunately. No.

Derek Walker:
Let me call your parents. Mel Brooks is a genius. There’s a scene in Blazing Saddles, where they tried to get all the poor people to come together to fight the rich money there. And they’re like… And it is offensive. So it’s like, “We’ll take the Asians we’ll take the blacks, we’ll take it, but we’re not taking the Irish.” And it’s that moment where it’s sort of like looks even among the poor, they fight amongst themselves. We, build turns out like men and I’m sitting here feeling bad, but I’m like I have never had the power at the agency to do any of these things. And when I’m being abused, white women are going on having their lunch and doing their thing. We have to understand that we can’t talk about this and just simply… Even people of colors sort of different because Asians never… I have to break it. Once again, break it out.

Derek Walker:
The Asians on the Pacific Asians have never considered themselves along with it, folks from India and Pakistan. I don’t even understand it, but there’s an air. If you come from China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, we’re not the western Asians. We’re the eastern Asians. And think about how that plays out. We bring in talent from India, it paid them pennies on the dollar. We’ll go to Japan or China, and make somebody rich. It’s just crazy that it’s so much. But once again, if falls to the leaders. You can’t tell me that you should never have two people working at the same job where the difference is more than 10 or 15%. I just don’t believe that. And what you said about paying is so true. If you’re paying one person 30, 40 50% more than you’re paying the other person to do the exact same job, you got a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Derek Walker:
That’s not good business. See, people thinking, “Oh, you talk about diversity and inclusion because you want to feel good.” No, I’m talking about it from a business standpoint. If I can discover more avenues for my client to make money, then maybe the agency client relationship last long. Maybe they’ll pay my compensation without arguing. Maybe I don’t have to open my books to Procter and Gamble, so they can determine how much profit I should make. Because I think that’s an abomination. But all of those things are a result of us not delivering on our product. Diversity and Inclusion help us deliver a better product to our client. If that’s not a business proposition, then what is?

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. Absolutely. This is and will continue to be such an insightful episode. I’m very pleased and proud that you’ve agreed to join. We are sadly coming to the end. But I would love to ask you one more question.

Derek Walker:
Sure.

Azeem Ahmad:
And that question is quite simply, white people listen to us. What can we do to better understand their colleagues who are people of color?

Derek Walker:
Get to know them. You can’t understand somebody at a distance. And we claim to be friends, we may go to the pub at a bar. But do we invite folks over to our house when it’s not a big function? Look at our social media pages. Dear God, look at our Facebook. I go to people’s Facebook pages and look at the pictures and their vacations. Black people’s vacations, all black people, Indian people, all Indian, white people, all white. And we don’t have to be friends, but we got to get to know each other. The other part to it is understand that it’s not about punishing you. It’s not your fault you were born white. Being white isn’t a problem. And folks think, “Well, you think white people…” No, I think the system that we put in place is the problem. Now if you’re not used to being uncomfortable, get used to being uncomfortable.

Derek Walker:
Fuck it. Ask the hard questions. Ask the easy questions, get to know folks. But also be willing to listen. I have told people something we talked about earlier. I said, “I can’t fail.” And my white counterparts are like, “I don’t understand, I can’t fail.” I get one shot at leader. I get one shot at trying something. Nobody’s going to let me… It’s odd. I came from the client side. So I came from Pizza Hut into advertising, and Pizza Hut, I could fail. In advertising, I realized the weight of that. And so understand that your counterparts or people of color that you’re working with are under a burden that is unseen. Anyway, that should help. I think we have to have understanding.

Azeem Ahmad:
100%, completely agree. Look for me to your very brief thank you. Thank you properly shortly before we part ways, I would love for you to share where people can go to connect with you to follow you on social media. How can people get in touch with you if they wanted to learn more?

Derek Walker:
I’m on LinkedIn. As I’m going to link them right now look to see who I am.

Azeem Ahmad:
When you share a link with me afterwards, I’ll share it.

Derek Walker:
Sure. I’ll give you a link. And I’m on Twitter. I’m easy to get in touch with on social media. Facebook is for friends and family. I don’t talk business on Facebook. I don’t do Instagram because Instagram is the devil. I am never doing TikTok. I will watch, you will not find Derek Walker on TikTok. No tiky toky. I don’t even know what I would do on TikTok. But LinkedIn and Twitter, I’m there all the time. But if you really just ping me on one of those, and well, Azeem will tell you, I’m not that hard to get in touch with. I’m hard to schedule. I’m just not hard to. I’ll take that one. But that’s the easiest. I will come back to you because we’re doing the Creative Combate. And I want to talk about that with you one day. We’re doing the Creative Combate is a competition designed to be fair. So we have to talk about that one.

Azeem Ahmad:
Yeah. Definitely, we can make that happen. But for now, massive, massive thank you for taking out an hour of your time with me. Everybody else who is going to listen to the show, I could not think of a better way to open the second season of this podcast on a year of doing this. So a huge, huge, huge, huge thank you. And if you have any questions for Derek, if you want to learn more, definitely reach out to him. Or if you want to get in touch me, I’ll pass you, I’ll put you in contact with him. Literally this one hour episode. I think I’ll probably put a tweet out on Twitter. I think every white person in this industry needs to sit down in a meeting room, nothing else on, and just listen to this episode. So for me to you Derek, a massive, massive, massive thank you very much.

Derek Walker:
You’re very welcome. Thank you. Thank you so much.