In case there is any confusion:

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter to me. Black Lives Matter to all of us at Hill Holliday.

We welcome the long-awaited, long overdue reckoning in our country, in corporate America, in our industry, and at our agency. The epidemic of racism may be new to people who haven’t been paying attention, but as our Black community knows all too well, unfortunately, it’s nothing new.

It’s become painfully clear to us that our people of color – and in particular, our Black employees – are not fairly represented in our agency network, and perhaps more importantly, among our senior leadership. And it’s become even more clear that our system is broken.

But that changes today, with less talk and more action.

We are being transparent with the sharing of our data and will be transparent with our progress going forward. At time of publishing, this is what our workforce looks like:

Race/Ethnicity By Level

It’s obvious we have a lot of work to do to rectify these alarming disparities both in our racial and ethnic composition and the levels of seniority they hold. Only 4% of our employee population identifies as Black. And even more disheartening is that we have very little senior Black representation. This is unacceptable.

While it would be unreasonable to compare the historical employee experiences of women to Black employees, in looking at our gender identity data at Hill Holliday today, it’s clear that we have had success in achieving gender equality. I am certain that using that same will, determination, and focused effort, we can achieve equity, balance, and a shift in power for our Black population at Hill Holliday.

Gender Identity By Level*

New Hires 2019—2020 To Date

Attrition 2019—2020 To Date

The advertising industry has great power and a tremendous responsibility to shape culture. If our purpose is to create ideas that matter, the people who create those ideas must be representative of the culture in which we live.

While we are firm believers in the power of data, we also understand that data is not a strategy. So consider this a benchmark, and the critical first step to understanding where we are and where we need to go. We’re publicly declaring our failure in the hopes that our employees, our community, and our industry will hold us accountable for building a better and more just future, and for transforming Hill Holliday into a more equitable place for Black people to work and thrive.

And while we’re talking about equity, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we have a clear understanding of the difference between the concepts of equality and equity. The structural inequalities that exist in our world leave many communities starting in a different place, and it’s critical that we systemically level the playing field. In fact, we feel so strongly about the importance of equity at Hill Holliday that we refer to the function as ED&I, literally putting Equity first because it is most important.

So that’s where we are. But where do we need to go? My vision for Hill Holliday is that we will look very different a year from now, and two years from now, and five years from now, and I am 100% committed to doing the hard work necessary to achieve the equity our people deserve. With that said, on behalf of the agency and its leadership, I commit to:

  1. Hiring more Black talent, and more senior Black talent, and more senior Black client-facing talent. My #1 goal is to increase Black representation at our agency, resulting in at least 13% Black representation among our officers (VP and above) by 2023.

  2. Auditing agency policies and practices to ensure our structural and behavioral processes are free from bias and are equitable and inclusive, and implement necessary changes by the end of 2021.

  3. Immediately improving our processes around attracting, retaining, and promoting current and future Black talent within our organization.

  4. Completing our ongoing third-party pay equity study by October, and addressing any racial or gender pay equity gaps identified.

  5. Requiring every employee to participate in Courageous Conversation racial equity transformation training that began in January, 2020.

  6. Holding every employee accountable for fostering an inclusive culture and participating in our agency’s ED&I efforts during their annual performance and compensation reviews.

  7. Immediately creating a diversity review panel to ensure our creative work is never culturally insensitive or offensive and does not spread stereotypes.

  8. Immediately launching an anonymous whistleblower hotline where discrimination can be reported when experienced or witnessed, internally or with clients, which will be monitored by the Executive Leadership Team.

  9. Signing onto the “600 & Rising” movement and “In for 13” pledge to hold ourselves accountable.

  10. Tracking and sharing this data annually to ensure that we are sustaining our commitment and making progress.

I have learned a lot in the last few months. And while equity, diversity and inclusion have always been of great importance to me, I have also learned that it’s not about intention, it’s about action. And I am committed to doing the hard work to make real, lasting change.

Thanks for keeping me honest.


Karen Kaplan
Chairman & CEO