Ali Hanan: 'No other period in history has needed us more than now'
Following the Media Leaders Awards 2021, Creative Equals founder Ali Hanan reflects on the past year and considers how the industry can drive real, tangible change
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement over the last 12 months?
“My phenomenal team, who have walked alongside me on 2020’s difficult, uncertain road. Together, we pivoted, innovated and collaborated to become stronger than ever,” said Ali Hanan, founder and CEO of the not-for-profit inclusion consultancy Creative Equals.
One of the key moments over the last year for the consultancy came in May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd by U.S police, when UM’s head of insights and culture, Michael Brown, and Creative Equals’ business director Steph Matthews created the idea for the #AdlandCommits open letter.
Over a week, Creative Equals worked "around the clock" with a group of organisations and individuals to reach over 400 industry signatories for the letter, which called on the advertising industry to commit to "actions, not words" in the battle against racial inequality.
But for Hanan, the work has “just started”, and she will withhold from calling this an achievement “until we see tangible results”.
Why is it so important that the media industry works to drive positive change?
“If we truly believe that we, as the advertising industry, influence culture and have the power to shift behaviour, it's time we stepped up,” Hanan said.
“While we shape narratives, few companies go deep on culture change. The way this sector has been built over decades means the diversity of our teams have a long way to go.”
The pandemic offers an opportunity for the sector to “reset itself”, Hanan said. From fresh ways of recruiting, to promoting and retaining talent who shape the media.
“No other period in history has needed us more than now. If we put inclusion in the media, we serve the higher purpose of putting inclusion in society. It’s time to make it happen.”
What are your plans and hopes for the year ahead?
“Enough talking leaders: where’s your implementable strategy for change?” Hanan asked.
In early 2020, Hanan found herself looking at a D&I strategy with a top line goal to 'win awards for diversity’ - before the company had even started to work out what its strategy should be.
Hanan’s hope for the year ahead is that companies start to “do the work before they talk about it”.
“My hope is that every single business sets their vision, mission and tangible actions for change," she said.
"If every company transforms from the inside out, one by one, we can truly create a fair, equal society where everyone is seen, valued and heard. We can do this, one company at a time.”