The program comes from the 4As Foundation to support Black rising stars and drive industry-level change in advertising.

In the summer of 2020, as racial inequity became a renewed national focus amid calls for urgent social change, it was clear that across all industries and sectors DE&I needed immediate prioritization.

In addition to offering trainings and educational resources for all employees, it is critically important to foster the talent pipeline in advertising, an overwhelming white industry. In fact, in 2019 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Black individuals made up only 0.7% of advertisers.

One of the programs seeking to address systemic challenges while advancing sustainable change is the Vanguard Program, offered through the 4As Foundation. This year-long initiative focuses on strengthening the talent pipeline for Black marketers by creating a mentorship network for each participant as well as teaching their agency mentors and sponsors how to best support and nurture transformative Black leaders in the industry.

Both Dominique Robinson from Leo Burnett and Nneka Ude from Arc Worldwide have been chosen as Fellows for the inaugural year of this program.

VP, Strategy Director Nneka Ude started her career at Arc Worldwide in August of 2019 as a key member on the Intel and Samsung teams. As a strategist, Nneka thrives at the intersection of data, identity, and culture. During her time at Arc, she’s been featured in Leo Burnett’s GenLeo series as a rising agency star, named a member of Cook County’s new Council on Digital Equity and has been a keynote speaker at numerous industry panels—the most recent one exploring healthcare and the racial divide for Black and Hispanic Americans. When the Nneka isn’t giving back to the community or leading brand and retail strategy for big-name brands, she’s busy running LOVE DOT, a retail marketplace connecting consumers to sustainably made, ethically sourced artisan brands, crafted in countries around the globe.

“The DE&I conversation is rooted in a troubling narrative, where the onus for fixing the “diversity challenge” is on either the disenfranchised group or a function of HR. It’s not,” says Nneka. “It’s a cultural challenge, one that everyone plays a role in and should be threaded throughout an organization. This is what I appreciate most about the Vanguard program. It is designed to give skilled and ambitious talent a safe space to learn and grow, while also equipping agency leadership with the knowledge they need to foster a more equitable environment and culture from the bottom up.”

Follow along in this year of learning with Dominique, Nneka and their respective mentors and sponsors throughout the 2021 Vanguard program. We’ll be connecting with the Fellows, mentors and sponsors at different touchpoints this year to give you an inside look at their journey, their experiences and learnings, and applicable lessons for the industry writ large.

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