ICA introduces a new training program to fight racism

After first calling on Canadian ad agencies to skip all award shows for the rest of 2020 as a way to save money during the COVID crisis, the Institute of Communication Agencies now has a suggestion for how some of that that money can be spent.

“I am asking that together we take those originally budgeted and unused dollars to fight racism and improve representation within the agency sector,” wrote ICA president and CEO Scott Knox in an email to agency executives Thursday. “Isn’t it better to be spending that cash on our people, fighting racism and discrimination, and meaningfully changing our industry?”

The ICA is launching IDEA Advocates, a facilitated mentorship program designed to address some of the fundamental issues underpinning systemic racism in the industry, leading to underrepresentation of Black employees and other people of colour.

The program is designed for one employee (mentee) and an executive (mentor) with the option of including a third person, an executive “ally.” The nine-month program will cost $5,355 for two people and $7,155 for three people.

According to the ICA, mentorship is not just about sharing one’s own stories about their career. “Great mentorship, the kind that inspires and creates access to executive leadership positions, is about empowering future leaders to be their best and authentic selves,” wrote Knox.

The program is being led by Dr. Helen Ofosu, who has 20 years of experience using industrial and organizational psychology across the government, business, and non-profit sectors.

Mentors should complete the program with a better understanding of structural and systemic racism and discrimination, and how to be an effective ally or mentor. Mentees will learn how to avoid burnout during the “double crisis” of racism and COVID; how to navigate professional boundaries, and manage upwards while still being their authentic selves.

Among the stated objectives for the ICA:

  • Drive inclusivity, diversity and equity in advertising leadership;
  • Pave a pathway for junior to senior level employees for career progression, including reaching executive level positions;
  • Create an executive mentor group of allies and advocates; and
  • Equip mentees with understanding and tools to be active and authentic participants in their professional development.

The first cohort, which will begin in September, is intended solely for Black mentees, and will be limited to 10 participating agencies (10 mentee with 10 mentors, and possibly 10 allies).


David Brown