One of the best pieces of leadership advice that Christena Pyle, Chief Equity Officer, dentsu Americas, has leaned into is based on a Nelson Mandela quote: in easy times lead from the back, and in challenging times lead from the front.
“A confident leader gives away the accolades and creates moments for their team to shine in easier times. In challenging times, a confident leader absorbs the team’s stress, takes the reigns, and leads from the front. We should all strive to be confident leaders,” said Pyle.
In today’s fast-paced business world, leaders must be willing to think outside the box and adapt to industry changes quickly. During her keynote, “Redefining Success: Leading with Vision and Innovation in the Modern Workplace,” at the AdMonsters Ops Conference, Pyle will share insights into effective leadership practices that can help organizations stay ahead of the curve.
Becoming dentsu’s First Chief Equity Officer
Pyle is the first Chief Equity Officer at dentsu, a role she assumed a little over two years ago.
“As ‘the first’ in my role, I recognized the potential to make a lasting impact at dentsu,” said Pyle. “I joined the company during a pivotal moment in the U.S. and globally, following the murder of George Floyd, during a global pandemic, and amidst widespread racial injustice.”
Pyle set out to design a DE&I practice at dentsu that would not only make an impact network-wide but industry-wide. Her initial approach was to closely collaborate with dentsu’s leadership team to thoroughly understand the agency’s business goals, values, and culture.
“I wanted to know where we were at and where we were headed. I assessed the company’s current state of equity and inclusion, identified gaps, and launched our first-ever DE&I report to share our progress and commitments and to hold us accountable,” recalled Pyle.
Pyle is most proud of accomplishing the DE&I report. The report was the first of its kind among agency holding companies when it was published in 2020-2021. The agency continues to publish the yearly report to measure against its previous commitments.
“Standing up a DE&I practice at dentsu reflects how we do business and is embedded into our company so that DE&I becomes the foundation of our culture, ways of working, and impact on clients and society,” said Pyle.
Over the last two years, Pyle’s role has evolved as dentsu has progressed in its equity and inclusion ambitions. The agency has adopted greater business rigor leveraging a more data-driven approach to its equity efforts. It is utilizing technology to track and analyze the impact of its initiatives on the organization.
“I feel proud to share that we now have Chief Equity Officers for every region globally. This has allowed us to ensure that our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is ingrained in every aspect of our operations,” said Pyle.
Getting a Foot in the Advertising Door
Pyle’s first interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion was initially through a multicultural internship program at the advertising agency Arnold Worldwide in 2007. It is where she discovered her passion for using creativity to drive positive change in society.
In 2013, Pyle became the director of ADCOLOR, a nonprofit organization that champions diversity and inclusion in creative industries.
“It wasn’t until my time at ADCOLOR that I transitioned my career full-time to focus on the discipline of DE&I,” said Pyle. “At ADCOLOR, I actively played a role in the inception of their award conferences, programs, and various other initiatives that underscored the significance of diversity and community within the industry.”
Both roles made a considerable impact and ignited Pyle’s passion for pursuing advertising industry opportunities focusing on promoting diversity and inclusion. Her unique background also shaped her career path and personal growth. Pyle’s LinkedIn profile lists her past lives as a pilot, aviator, MTV TV personality, speaker, producer, and marathoner.
“Each of my past lives has provided me with unique experiences, skills, and perspectives that have informed and influenced where I am today. My time as an MTV cast member definitely prepared me for the interpersonal team dynamics of our beloved business!” said Pyle.
Prioritizing DE&I in the Advertising Industry
That an agency’s clients are the lifeblood of the business, and they are increasingly demanding more from their agency partners, isn’t lost on Pyle. This is especially true now that those demands also include sophisticated DE&I practices.
Pyle believes that tearing the paper ceiling is crucial to making the advertising industry safer, more welcoming, and equitable for people of all kinds. The invisible barriers for workers without a bachelor’s degree limit the industry’s ability to hire the best talent.
“Equal access to opportunities should be available to everyone, and we must look to change our hiring practices,” suggested Pyle. “To achieve this, agencies must consciously seek out and hire individuals from diverse backgrounds and provide them with pathways to leadership roles.”
Pyle thinks businesses focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion are more likely to attract and retain diverse talent, better serve their clients, and achieve greater business success. This approach helps create a new future of work that prioritizes skills over traditional markers of success, such as education and work experience.