Why I Hated Diversity & Inclusion

14 Jan 2019

by Berthony Poux

TMA’s Inclusion Summit is a special event. As a small MBE, we understand the importance of diversity and inclusion efforts. Sadly, this wasn’t always the case for me. When I graduated from Baruch College back in the late 90s, I was fiercely competitive and eager to show corporate America what I could accomplish. After six months of interviews, the only offers that I received were from dead-end jobs. I was holding out for something in marketing that would help me start my career. One day I got a call from a recruiter that I’d been working with for about a month. She sounded a bit more excited than usual. She told me that she had a marketing assistant position with Book-Of-The-Month-Club (BOMC), a division of Time Inc., and she thought I would be perfect for the role since I was a writer. She explained that she rarely received job requisitions from Time Inc., but she had placed a few people there recently. I remember the interview process was long, especially for an entry-level position. Luckily for me, I’d become a pro at interviewing after six months of failure. I finally landed my first job out of college! My excitement lasted for about a week.

I found out through whispers, that there were a number of new diversity hires. I looked around my department at the four new hires and realized that we looked like one of those old United Colors of Benetton advertisements. But I decided to ignore the rumors, because they were just rumors, and focused on wowing my new team with my work.

Then one day, I was asked to go to the Director of Finance’s office. When I asked why, my boss turned red and avoided giving me a direct answer. I thought her reaction to my question was odd so I immediately went downstairs to find out what was going on. I found out that I had been invited to join a group (I later learned that it was an employee resource group). My emotions were mixed. Being a kid from the inner city, I was happy to have mentors that were like me. On the other hand, I now knew the rumors were true and I became enraged! No, I did not mean upset or angry. I was enraged. I didn’t want any part of affirmative action or any kind of hand-out. I worked my way through school while taking on two unpaid internships and still managed to graduate with honors. I did not want the label of someone that needed help to get in the door. I deserved my spot. Yes, I was very naive back then.

It took a few months for me to realize the pattern at Time Inc. There was an intranet with all the job postings from all the different magazines and even sister companies like HBO. These positions were mostly filled through internal transfers or through employee recommendations. While viewing the vast list of opportunities, I recalled the recruiter’s words, “I rarely receive positions from Time Inc.” I then realized that without Time Inc.’s D&I efforts, I would have never learned about the position. Minorities needed to get in the door first before they could transfer into higher-level positions or recommend friends.

Not only did I owe my position to D&I efforts, but I also owed my quick career growth to them as well. I found various mentors that gave me valuable career advice. I met and received career advice from people like the author, Omar Tyree, and then Time Inc. CEO, Gerald (Jerry) Levin during the ERG meet-ups.  After two years and two promotions at BOMC, I used that internal job board to transfer to Parenting Magazine where I learned about circulation, A/B testing, and gained direct marketing skills that made me the top candidate for a job with a company that produced business conferences. Now I’m CEO of an event company that proudly produces an Inclusion Summit where I get to say thank you to D&I professionals every year. Your work is very much appreciated and I have no idea where my career would have ended up without people like you.

TMA’s 2017 Inclusion Summit is scheduled for June 19-20th at the Hyatt Regency Reston in Virginia. To register please visit http://the-tma.org/Inclusion-Summit/.