Beyond Words - She Runs It
Thought Leadership

Beyond Words

By Lynn Branigan

When President Gerald Ford first expanded Black History Week (a celebration conceived in 1925 by Carter G. Woodson and his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History), he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”


Those are important words. Honest words. And as much as I believe in the power of words, they are not enough to create change. “What can we do beyond words?” is a question my staff asks itself every time the calendar presents us with a commemorative day or month or event. How can we step beyond the performative and truly have an impact?


In 2017, we took significant action. In partnership with what was then Diversity Best Practices (now Seramount), we launched #Inclusive100, the industry’s first DEI initiative to use data and measurement to ignite action in the pursuit of greater inclusivity and diversity in marketing, media and tech. Having observed the great intent but soft impact of public pledges, we shaped an approach that would empower companies in our industry to truly create change.


On February 17, we will reveal the 5th annual #Inclusive100 survey results in a free, virtual session. You can register to attend on our website here. We will share a progress report and also discuss proven actions that indexed companies have taken.


But let me not bury the lead. Participation in #Inclusive100 is free. It does require staff time to complete the Seramount Inclusion Index, and it does pivot on quarterly roundtable sessions (virtual since 2020), where successful initiatives are shared, and persistent barriers are confronted. It does not require a separate out-of-pocket budget.


The study and the roundtables identify very specific actions that companies can take to achieve DEI commitments and goals. Actions like where and how to recruit diverse talent. Insisting on diverse hiring and promotion slates. Ensuring diverse employees are personally encouraged to participate in corporate mentoring and sponsorship programs. And holding managers accountable to DEI goals with performance metrics.


Repeatable programs are shared during the roundtable sessions that are rich with ideas like Kinesso’s approach to help advertisers push their ad spend to businesses owned and operated by people of color. And Unilever’s network of 100 D&I Champions that shapes the company’s DEI agenda. And GroupM’s externships. And TripAdvisor’s decision to pay Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders an annual bonus payout of up to $5000. The list of actionable ideas goes on and on. In fact, the 100 in #Inclusive100 suggests three things.

  1. That we will ultimately surface and share at least 100 repeatable actions that other companies can put to use.
  2. We are hoping to have 100 companies participate in #Inclusive100 (currently there are about 50)
  3. The perfect score for the Seramount Inclusive Index is 100 – a number to aspire to.


The 2022 Seramount Inclusive Index is currently open for submissions, and we are always eager to add new companies to the #Inclusive100 consortium. Lean in. Reach out to for more information. This is one step you can take that will honor Black History Month with actions that do much more than words.