Navigating economic strain while maintaining focus on DEI

Sandra Masiliso outlines how a focus on talent and DEI is critical to agency culture at DEPT

Sandra Masiliso

Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead DEPT®


In the face of economic challenges, fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the industry becomes even more critical. Despite these obstacles, at Dept we remain steadfast in our commitment to cultivating a workplace culture where every individual feels represented, included, and has a greater sense of belonging.

Empowering ERGs

We have a multitude of ERGs operating at both the global and local levels, each dedicated to championing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organisation.

At the global level, a few examples include Dept/Pride, Dept/Women, and Dept/Mosaic. Our Pride group empowers LGBTQIA+ employees to embrace their authentic selves without fear of judgment. Through events, discussions, and advocacy, this ERG ensures that the LGBTQIA+ community's voices are not just heard but celebrated within our agency.

Similarly, Dept/Women amplifies the voices of women within our organisation, providing a platform for mentorship, networking, and professional development. With global initiatives like mentoring, this ERG fosters an environment where upcoming talent can thrive, break barriers, and shatter glass ceilings.

Diversity is not just a moral imperative but a strategic advantage that drives innovation and creativity.

Sandra Masiliso, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead, DEPT

Dept/Mosaic focuses on turning the dial on the lived experiences of people of colour in the workplace, promoting allyship, understanding, appreciation, and celebration of different cultures and backgrounds.

Structured Diversity Strategy

Central to our approach is a comprehensive DEI strategy that sets clear aspirations and targets for the next three years. We recognise that meaningful change begins with understanding, which is why we prioritise the collection of demographic data to inform our initiatives and bring about meaningful change. By aligning our DEI efforts with our business objectives, we’re able to demonstrate that diversity is not just a moral imperative but a strategic advantage that drives innovation and creativity.

Impactful Initiatives

I’m so incredibly proud to be part of an agency that is committed to implementing initiatives that make a tangible difference in promoting diversity and inclusion. The Ignite internship program, spearheaded by Onyx, aims to attract, hire, and develop Black talent in the marketing industry. By providing paid internships and mentorship opportunities, we not only invest in the future of our industry but also pave the way for underrepresented individuals to succeed.

Additionally, our partnership with Blue Road Academy underscores our commitment to supporting newcomers to Europe in advancing their careers. By providing training, professional development, and direct connections with top employers, we empower individuals to thrive in their chosen fields.

Neurodiversity is another key area for us at Dept and it has been a real pleasure to partner with Manchester Metropolitan University and partake in the Employ Autism Scheme. We’ve been able to welcome tech interns and ensure that our colleagues completed training on neurodiversity with a specific focus on autism. We not only provide valuable work experience but also foster an environment of understanding and support.

Celebrating US Black History Month

In the US, BLA3Q (our Black ERG) has been incredible in raising awareness during Black History Month, focusing on the theme of ‘African Americans and the Arts’. From social media takeovers to podcast episodes on allyship and even cross-collaboration efforts with other ERGs on how we can ensure our client engagements inspire greater diversity and Black inclusion, these initiatives not only educate but also inspire meaningful dialogue and action within our agency and beyond.

Moving Forward

As we continue on our journey toward cultural change, we recognise that there is still much work to be done. Especially during this time of economic strain, organisations across the industry must lean on the learnings from one another. We can navigate this period with a sense of unity and collective growth by sharing best practices, insights, and challenges. Empowering ERGs and investing in diversity training are key steps for businesses to enhance their DEI efforts. Creating opportunities like internships and mentorship programs fosters inclusivity, driving us toward a brighter, more equitable future.

Guest Author

Sandra Masiliso

Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead DEPT®


Sandra is the global diversity equity and inclusion lead at DEPT® with extensive experience developing robust strategies, partnering with external organisations, holding executives to account, developing and coaching senior leaders, and taking a variety of audiences on a change transformation journey via the use of sound storytelling channels. Prior to joining DEPT®, Sandra worked as the creative diversity lead at the BBC, the equality diversity and inclusion manager at Newton Europe, and as a management consultant working with leading FTSE100 companies where she held key agile project management, change management, and business strategy roles. Sandra can effectively engage with clients at a range of levels, understand their business challenges, and conduct thorough research to produce quality documentation that determines their future strategy. Sandra has also worked within the charity, intergovernmental, and academic sectors and is an award-winning, international, motivational speaker.

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