This discussion took place in 2021, when Maya Grossman was VP of Marketing at Untapped, and Anna Griffin was Chief Marketing Officer at Smartsheet

Diversity is a strong contender for the word of the decade. Companies around the world are waking up and asking themselves how they can better represent the societies that surround them.

Nowhere is this more visible than in marketing, as advertisers reach out to a broader range of audiences than ever before and tell a story that they can be a part of.

In this fireside chat, and the immensely positive impact it can have on society and your company.

Read on for a taster.

  • About us
  • The role of marketing leaders in inclusivity
  • Now is the time for action

About us

Maya Grossman: We're gonna talk about something that both Anna and I find very dear to our hearts: how we build strategies for social change.

As CMOs and marketing leaders, we’re in this unique position, where we're not only able to make differences within our own teams, but we can actually influence brands and tell stories that empower other people to make a change.

But before we dive into that, Anna, why don't you kick us off and tell us a little bit more about yourself?

Anna Griffin: Thank you. I'm Anna Griffin. I was born and raised in North Carolina and I started my career in advertising. I was really blessed in those early days to be able to work with different car companies and get involved in the launch of iMac as I began my B2C tech career.

I wanted to raise a family on the east coast in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I realized I was going to need to get into B2B marketing to live where I wanted to live and to have the career I wanted. And so I've parlayed my experiences into B2B marketing.

I'm currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Smartsheet, which is a dynamic workspace where teams are able to manage projects, automate workflows, and ultimately align a company around a purpose. It's been a fun ride.

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Maya Grossman: Yeah, and it sounds like something we all need right now. A quick introduction from me too. My name is Maya Grossman.

I'm currently the VP of Marketing at Untapped. It's a diversity recruiting platform and we essentially help companies understand the diversity of their talent pool and make smarter hiring decisions.

I've been in marketing for almost 15 years. I've worked for Fortune 500, Microsoft, and Google as well as smaller startups. What I love doing most is building marketing pretty much from the ground up.

The role of marketing leaders in inclusivity

In the past year or so I’ve had a very unique opportunity to see recruiting from the candidate side.

I spent a lot of time speaking to young professionals as I was writing a book and building a community, and I was able to learn how broken recruiting is and how unfair the process is.

I think being able to see recruitment from that perspective and having the opportunity to lead a role as a marketing executive made me realize we need to make a change.

It's definitely something that as marketers, we can influence in different ways. I think it took speaking to so many people and understanding their pain, to really be able to see it.

This is not new, right? We all know that there’s inequality, but sometimes you just need to have it hit a little bit closer to home so that you can really understand how broken the system is and how much it needs changing.

Why is this topic we're talking about today something that you care about, Anna?

Anna Griffin: You know, it's funny – people are not inherently bad. I believe people are born inherently good. Still, unconscious bias just exists, and to try to understand why, I go back and I think about who we are as humans and how we think.

I think as human beings, we’re a product of the stories we've been told. Some people are blessed with great storytellers in their life; they have parents who tell them they're born to do great things.

We also have governments, society, and teachers telling us a story.

A narrative starts as soon as you have the cognitive ability to start assessing the world. Soon enough, you start to manifest that story, and you become the product of the story you've been told.

And so why I think this is so important is we all have the ability to change our story. We can all course correct and ultimately change our destinies. I think that's where individual empowerment and societal empowerment lie.

This topic is important to me because I believe in the power of stories. I believe that in the world of marketing and advertising, we influence people.

We are storytellers, and we put products into the world that influence how people think. And when you think about advertising at large, you can't be what you can't see.

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If you only see women being beautiful or even being objectified in advertising, or if you watch television, and you only see certain stereotypes being played out, those things start to shape your impression yourself and what your role could be.

As a little girl, what I saw on television was the show Solid Gold. I ended up being a dance major most of my life because that's what I saw women doing and that’s what I thought powerful, interesting women did.

Marketers, advertisers, storytellers, and story creators, we have this huge responsibility to show people in an honest light. That’s our part in changing people's stories: allowing them to see themselves and to see their potential that maybe, up to now, has not been seen.

We also have a responsibility to change the storytellers. Stories are told from the storyteller's point of view, and if you don't have more diversity in who's telling the story, then stories are always going to be told from a narrow perspective.

There's a lot that we can do in this industry to make an impact and to help people see themselves the way that they really are.

Maya Grossman: I definitely agree. I think as marketers, we have a dual obligation.

The first obligation as leaders is to hire more diverse teams and make sure that we're building a product and a brand that represents everyone, not just the few people who are in the room.

We need to make sure that we bring more people into that room as well. That's one thing that every leader can do.

But as marketers, we also have this unique ability to shape narratives. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of a story, not to mention the power of repetition.

So if you see something enough times, it becomes your normal. I think we almost have an obligation to make sure that we showcase that normal in a way that actually represents the world and what people really look like.

With everything that's been going on, from the pandemic to the riots, we've all been spending more time thinking and reflecting. I think it's becoming more and more clear that we have to stop talking and we need to start doing. We need to actually start taking action to make a difference.

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We've seen this start to play out in a lot of different ways, like companies changing brand names to make sure that they're not stereotyping anyone with even the name of their brand. 10 years ago, I don’t think that would have happened.

I was watching the documentary about Britney Spears. And I was appalled by some of the interviews that were happening, where she was being asked questions that were very different from what a man would be asked. 10 years ago, it was okay, right? It was aired on TV. No one complained about it.

It just made me realize that our perception as a country has been changed by recent events. We're in this unique momentum where we can’t not do this – we can't not think about diversity and inclusion.

That kind of leads to the next question. I mentioned there have been shifts in thinking, and I think a question that comes up very often is why now? Why are we suddenly awakened? Why do we finally feel the need for change?

Now is the time for action

Anna Griffin: I think throughout history there have been waves where people have wanted to take action and where people have felt more empowered to be able to do so.

That's one of the great things about where we are right now – the sense of empowerment, to be able to take action or to be aware of the world around us.

I think also what we see in the news, the media, and on social media – things that we didn't have before – is making us feel the pain a little bit more, and sit with it a little bit more than maybe we could have done through other moments in history.

With technology, there are so many more ways to connect and advocate and expose and champion and support, so it’s a great time for action.

Action comes in many different forms. One of the things I was thinking about, just by virtue of the company that I work at, is that it’s not just about gender diversity or ethnic diversity. The democratization of perceived rights and success comes across a lot of different forms.

When you think about technology, for a long time it was really only for the 20% of a company. Now I see technology entering and playing a role that is democratizing people's ability to participate in new ways in work and in life.

So, why are people awakening now? Because the time is right and the tools are right, not only in society but in the workplace. It's a really exciting era.

Maya Grossman: I agree. It allows more people to participate and have an impact. I tried to see if there are any other reasons why now, and one that comes to mind is the fact that Gen Z are coming into the workforce.

They're not afraid to ask questions and demand change because they want to work for a place that has the same values as they do.

There was some recent research that showed the thing that job seekers care about the most is the culture of the organization, how they are going to be treated, and whether they're going to have a voice.

They want to be able to share their thoughts and ideas, and they also want to see people like them at the company. I think that's something that's been getting a lot of attention from companies as they realize they have to evolve if they want to attract great talent.

Last but not least, remote work has transformed the landscape. Before, for every job opening, you might have 100 candidates; now you can have thousands. The door is open and anyone in the tech world can work anywhere.

It opens up a lot of different opportunities and it forces companies to ask themselves how they can use this opportunity for greater diversity to support their business.

At the end of the day, diversity, inclusion, and equity are all going to be good for your business. Yes, it's a process, but study after study shows that the more diverse the team is, the more successful the company is.

Just to give you an example, when I was doing some research for my work at jumpstart, I came across an article about when Oculus launched – it caused motion sickness for women, which they hadn’t realized because all of the developers and the testers were men.

They could have lost 50% of their target market because they didn't build for them. So it's not just about appearance, it's also making sure that you actually have the right voices in every conversation.

Passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion? We'll be talking about that and so many more vital, inspiring topics at the Women in SaaS Summit on June 13th. Register your interest here! 👯