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Beyond October: Black History Month 2023

Oct 20, 2023

Team ITG Copywriter, Damaani Burns, explains the ongoing importance of Black History Month in this insightful article, explaining why its core messages need to resonate beyond October and interviewing ITGers from acoss the business on their unique experiences, both personal and in the world of marketing.

October 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month – a national celebration which aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to society, and foster an understanding of Black history in all regards. However, in the words of ITG’s Mickel Ledford…

“It usually starts and ends with slavery as if that was everything that had happened”

And this is simply not the case. Black History is an unending story, with each generation contributing new chapters, rewriting old ones, and ensuring that the narrative of the Black communtiy is forever in motion. It is important to use October to highlight this to the world, inspire generations new and old and make sure that Black voices are being heard. Though I love Black History Month, this sentiment is often overshadowed as companies tiptoe around difficult topics and release lacklustre statements about diversity and equality as a reductive, tick-box exercise. Having only been at Team ITG for five months, this October was met with a fear of repeated cycles. Yet my faith was quickly restored as my inbox filled with communications surrounding a range of events, initiatives and projects set to accurately represent and promote the Black community in celebration of Black History Month. Celebrating ITG’s black talent, I had the priviledge of speaking with some of my colleagues, hearing their personal stories and experiences that led them to the marketing and tech industry. According to The Tech Talent Charter’s 2021 report, only 2% of the UK’s tech workforce is made up of black workers, while a 2023 survey by Statista showed that only 1.8% of UK marketers identified as Black, African Caribbean, or Black British. Why is this? Though we may not know the reasons behind these statistics, we can work towards changing them by showing the next generation of black people that marketing and technology is the go-to industry and telling our own stories of how and why we got here. Here is a little insight into some of our Black ITGers’ journeys, along with advice for those hoping to follow in their footsteps:

Ashley Edwards: People Coordinator

Why should black people see marketing/technology as the go-to industry? Marketing is all about creativity, and is a place where diversity can be most valued. Being able to bring unique perspectives and ideas can contribute to better solutions, and may also result in more representation in the media we consume through marketing. Proudest moment at ITG I’d say my proudest moment has to be launching the ‘Black ITGers Together’ group. As someone who struggles with social anxiety, being able to feel comfortable enough leading a group is honestly something I never thought would happen – but I’m happy it has!

Tevin Olatomirin: Business Development Manager

What inspired you to work in the marketing/technology industry? I started my career within Financial Services at the worst time and during the market crash I got made redundant. Back in the day I studied economics but with no marketing background, I applied for a marketing role not expecting to get it, but I did, and then it kind of spiralled from there. Tips to those looking to follow in your footsteps: Just go for it! There’s always going to be challenges but unless you knock on those doors, you’re never going to know if anyone’s in.

Mickel Ledford: Senior Creative/Animator

Why should black people see marketing/technology as the go-to industry? They may not have even considered that the marketing industry is actually a really good fit for them. From a marketing point of view, social media is now so creative and diverse – it’s full of influencers and content creators doing things that are so cool and engaging, in ways that some of the best marketing heads haven’t really tapped into, possibly just because it’s a generational thing. Tips to those looking to follow in your footsteps: Use the fact that you were born into this age where tech, marketing and social media is so prevalent to your advantage. If you believe that your talent is as good as the next person, you have to believe in it 100% and just go for it. Imposter syndrome does a lot of harm and stops a lot of black people trying to get into industries like this, but self-confidence and self-awareness will get you through! This year’s theme for Black History Month is ‘Saluting Our Sisters’. When asked about the black women that inspire them most, all of our Black ITGers told us tales of their mothers and how their unwavering love, dedication and strength moulded them into the people they are today. This theme continued during an ITG Black History Month Panel Discussion, hosted by Executive Coach René Carayol. It featured notable individuals such as renowned author and speaker Flavilla Fongang, Calling Studio founder Rani Patel, Chief Membership & Customer Officer at Co-op Kenyatte Nelson, and myself, Damaani Burns, a Junior Copywriter here at ITG. This powerful and inspirational session delved into topics such as embracing your authentic black identity within the workplace, along with tips for the upcoming generation of black marketers and tech workers.

“Not only are we seeing broader representation, there also seems to be a willingness to lean into spaces and take up places in ways that I think we haven’t seen historically, which I think is phenomenal” Kenyatte Nelson, Chief Membership & Customer Officer, Co-op 

So, all in all, I am sitting here a proud black woman taking up space in the marketing and tech industry at the start of my career writing this to you all. It has been an amazing Black History Month so far being able to discuss such powerful topics with influential black people in this industry. I write this article to emphasise that it is not just about October – it’s about making a lasting impact. And to all the other black talent out there waiting for a sign to come in, here it is. There’s more than one seat at the table, not just in October, but beyond. René summed it up beautifully:

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us, who had it tougher, who didn’t have the support, who didn’t have the confidence but because of them, we can, and we must”

If you’d like to join us at ITG and be a part of this journey, visit our careers page. With offices in the UK, Europe, North America and APAC, we have  a world of opportunities for you to explore.

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