A driver of organizational and systematic change, Ezinne Okoro is on a mission to help further underrepresented groups and drive sustainable inclusion in global organizations. As Wunderman Thompson's first Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Officer, Ezinne speaks on the agency's global strategy to deliver an inclusive, cross-functional experience for their people, clients, and communities.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?
One would say I’ve had a lot of success in my career, working with global, multi-dimensional organizations that are household names. But for me, the accolades are not my driving force. My goal is to use my platform and influence to give space to those who are historically excluded, and to be a voice to share their stories, to infuse change in the world. My journey to leading change and culture in organizations began with a thirst to lift others up as I climb, and provide opportunities to others. DE&I as a profession is just another avenue for me to bring forth that change in the private sector. In my current role, I am charged with leading our global strategy within inclusion, diversity, equity, and sustainability. To deliver an inclusive, cross-functional experience for our people, clients, and communities.
What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?
It’s important to call out the barriers and challenge them. Though we have seen progress, we still have a long way to go towards unlocking the barriers when it comes to intersectionality of a woman’s identity. Black women continue to be widely marginalized and the last to “advance” even with the changes made. Women of color join them in these low stats of advancement. We must also represent and recognize women from other minority groups (i.e., people with disabilities, those from a less advantaged social-economic status, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with different religions and beliefs).). Lack of access and opportunities continue to be the biggest plague in gender equity. Sponsor women, give them the opportunity to be a contributing member in the room, credit them for their work and make meaningful introductions that can elevate their careers.
How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?
I always look beyond my title and focus on my role as a citizen of the world and the influence that I can make. I don’t have all the solutions but I know my story and experience is unique. My presence, hopefully, shows them that it is possible. It is my obligation to ask the (sometimes difficult) questions that center around equity, inclusion and diversity, to build equitable teams – I’m intentional about that. Calling things out, naming them, and advising to find solutions. This is how we shift the narrative.
Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?
I’m inspired by many within the industry (and adjunct). From my boss, Global CEO Mel Edwards, as one of the few female CEOs, to the women on my team that prove that we are better together, and to the many Black and women of color creatives, that push the envelope to drive culture in a space that wasn’t designed for them. When I think of the likes of Debra Lee, Chairman & CEO of BET, I am in awe of the resilience and fastidious behavior, despite the obstacles faced. They all inspire me in knowing the work is hard but even the smallest impact is felt.