WPP-owned VMLY&R really impressed out judges with their belief of everyone deserving the opportunity to have meaningful work rewarded in a fair manner – regardless of their sexual orientation.
Specifically in Asia, conservative cultures and companies have not made it easy for LGBTQ+ talents to land their ideal careers in this region. They are reported to face discrimination in the workplace and when applying for jobs due to gender identity and sexual preference, and are often overlooked for promotions or even penalised in the workplace for being who they are.
Such experiences have led to self-censorship with candidates holding themselves back from being who they are during interviews or even when they’ve landed a job. Their inability to be themselves creates unnecessary self-doubt and has a direct impact on their performance and sense of belonging.
However, while the bias may exist in many conservative companies in Asia, organisations such as VMLY&R are seeking to diversify their teams and have adopted LGBTQI-friendly workplace policies. Despite a concerted effort to recruit from the LGBTQ+ community, the agency however noted that it was extremely hard to identify or reach out to the community given that many choose to be discreet about their sexual preference due to past experiences. Many of its job placements on traditional portals often seemed to get lost in the sea of opportunities. So, unless the LGBTQ+ talents did their own ‘homework’ to identify inclusive companies, they risked placing themselves in organisations where they will continue to be penalised for their sexual preference.
When the hiring conundrum was presented to the management at VMLY&R Singapore run by Tripti Lochan (regional CEO) and Preethi Sanjeevi (MD for Singapore), the two provided immediate full support and formed a team of eight people to find a solution to the issue. On 27 June 2020, VMLY&R launched thepridepass.com, to facilitate the connection between LGBTQ+ talent with inclusive organisations such as its own and others. This would then enable the LGBTQ+ community to venture out to one common place to find opportunities with inclusive companies who are actively looking to diversify their teams.
Given the solution could be more beneficial for the LGBTQ+ community if extended to serve other inclusive companies, the team at VMLY&R reached out to various HR leads across companies and tapped onto their partners such as Clear Channel and other WPP companies. Many of these companies joined the movement by simply registering and tagging all their jobs with #PridePass. This allowed the website to aggregate all the opportunities for LGBTQ+ talents to discover. Social assets, email banners and more were provided to participating companies to share to drive awareness. Paid media banners driven by ManpowerGroup on Linkedin and HR websites were also activated to drive more traffic and awareness together with podcasts by WPP TV, hosted by Tripti Lochan.
The initiative wasn’t without its own challenges. For example, several interested companies also had their own internal processes in place which disallowed them to jump on board the initiative.
Nontheless, VMLY&R carried forth with its goals.
To date, more than 800 jobs were made available for LGBTQ+ talents even during a limiting COVID-19 year for opportunities. According to the agency, the success of the effort has raised awareness internally to reinforce that VMLY&R is committed to creating an inclusive environment and is home to any talent.
Internally, VMLY&R’s also created the "Proudly Said" podcast series which features open and honest conversations that help educate people and build awareness about LGBTQ+ issues. The series highlighted the stories of LGBTQ+ people within VMLY&R and from the communities to discuss about the struggle for equality in the world and workplace.
It has also created a “Brave Questions, Safe Spaces" content series powered by its own DE&I team. Brave Questions, Safe Spaces (BQSS) serves as a springboard for VMLY&Rers all around to share, learn, empathise, and understand each other better.
And to really walk the talk, the agency also hosts different events throughout the year such as Proud Pronoun Project which is to move hearts, and educate minds — all while creating a community of understanding with regards to creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ talents who have joined the company.