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Come Out to Work Initiative Addresses Agency LGBTQ+ Representation


Industry urged to sign Project 47 pledge

Come Out to Work Initiative Addresses Agency LGBTQ+ Representation

A 2021 industry survey by the 4A’s revealed some shocking data: in a question on sexual orientation, 4A’s member agencies reported that 99.983% of their employees indicated that they are heterosexual/straight. Based on the fact that 267,932 people work in advertising that would mean that only 46 people in the industry are willing to identify as LGBTQ+. 

“We knew immediately that this number is not an accurate representation of LGBTQ+ employees in the industry,” said Alan Brown, Founder and Chair of Seattle agency DNA. “But what it revealed, is a serious a problem: LGBTQ+ workers are either not comfortable reporting their sexual orientation, and/or companies are not providing the mechanism for them to do so if they wish. Either scenario begs further questions about the cultures our employees work in and whether they feel they can be their true, authentic selves at work.”

The issue led Brown and his agency to launch The Project 47 Pledge, a commitment to LGBTQ+ employee inclusion. The pledge, now signed by over 30 agencies, asks agency leaders to commit to mentoring one LGBTQ+ employee for at least one hour per month for one year. The idea is that if the project proves that there are 47 LGBTQ+ people in the business, because it has helped them feel welcome enough to come out, that it will show that the industry needs to make much more progress towards inclusion. 

As Brown noted, “As an LGBTQ+ and Black owned and led agency, we felt it was important to continue to not just talk, but to act by investing in the LGBTQ+ community – by putting our time into mentoring and providing a path for LGBTQ+ employees to be successful in advertising. The Project 47 Pledge is a visible and real commitment to that action.”

The Project 47 Pledge is intended to create a safe and welcoming environment.   The hope is that with visible leaders supplying support and mentorship, more LGBTQ+ people will be comfortable raising their hands to be seen. The more agencies that get onboard with the Project 47 Pledge, the more impact can be made in supporting and encouraging LGBTQ+ people to be out at work, to be successful in advertising, and to create future demand for talented workers that find advertising as an attractive career choice.

“I was stunned when I found that within our industry, so few people in the LGBTQ+ community feel comfortable enough to self identify,” wrote Robert Valdes, Chief Operating Officer at Fig  on a LinkedIn post. “FIG signed the Project 47 Pledge because this pledge is central to our value system. But a signature is easy; the work is what I am excited about. We have now put a focus on a critical facet of our overall approach to mentorship for our staff. The commitment that comes with the signature will add even more depth and effectiveness to our efforts to foster an environment where everyone can show up comfortably as their true selves and bring that invaluable authenticity to our work.”

Project 47 grew out of DNA’s “Come Out to Work” initiative that provides stories of those who have come out at work, and actions companies can take to make their workplaces more inclusive. These steps include:

· Be Visible – taking actions beyond Pride Month to demonstrate that you are an open and inclusive organization

· Be Equitable : treating LGBTQ+ employees with equality by creating an open, inclusive and safe culture

· Be intolerant – for many years LGBTQ+ people have been “tolerated” but today it's about full recognition and acceptance and being intolerant of anything less

According to research from McKinsey and, compared to those who are not out, people who are out at work are significantly happier, have equal opportunity for advancement, have a positive relationship with their manager and also experience fewer microaggressions. While the number of people who self-identify as LGBTQ+ has grown by 100% since 2012, driven by GenZ and Millennials, 46% of LGBTQ people are NOT out at work.* Just up until two years ago, individuals could be legally fired from their jobs for being LGBTQ+.


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The Marketing Standard, Wed, 16 Nov 2022 15:41:55 GMT