Creative agency Havas London has partnered with diversity, inclusion and equality organisation Creative Equals to launch Press Pause – an anti-discrimination initiative that provides a robust, formal framework through which employees can challenge problematic views and behaviours.
The guidelines, which empower employees to ‘pause’ an uncomfortable or problematic encounter before a number of potential next steps are taken, cover ‘any exchange where behaviour is shown or something is said or implied (including microaggressions) that is deemed prejudiced, discriminatory, derogatory or negative toward any one person or more’. This includes internal exchanges as well as those with clients and suppliers.
Once an encounter is ‘paused’, the individual can either voice their concern (if they feel safe to do so), move the conversation onto an appropriate topic and later raise their concern with a nominated person, or remove themselves from the situation and later raise their concern with a nominated person. Further steps will then be taken, the exact nature of which are dependent on the circumstances of the incident.
The full Press Pause policy, which has been used by Havas London since January 2019, is backed by Creative Equals and will be published at creativeequals.org/press-pause for any organisation to adopt, adapt or take inspiration from.
The unusual move to open source this policy follows considerable interest from other agencies after Havas London and Havas helia CEO Xavier Rees discussed its application at a recent Creative Equals CEO event. It also an acknowledgment that the industry lacks a codified means through which its people can confidently challenge discrimination in all its guises, particularly in circumstances where a power imbalance may exist.
Rees says: “It is incumbent on all of us to call out discrimination, wherever we see it. If we don’t, we are complicit. As an agency leader, I need to ensure everyone is able to do that, with confidence and without fear. Press Pause arms our people with the right tools when faced with a difficult situation and empowers them to address it through a clear process and the right support.
“No more turning a blind eye to comments, actions or requests we know are not okay. We introduced these guidelines last year, and they have since been used on multiple occasions to positive effect. They have led to some difficult, but necessary, conversations, each time with a satisfactory outcome that otherwise would not have happened. It’s imperative we work together as an industry to root out discriminatory views, and it has become increasingly clear that Press Pause is too important an initiative to keep to ourselves.”
Ali Hanan, Founder and Chief Executive of Creative Equals adds: “In every situation, to achieve inclusion, we have to be able to speak out when something feels ethically or morally wrong. Many of the stories we are hearing also fall foul of the Equalities Act and are potentially discriminatory. This also puts our staff in a situation where they can experience deep trauma. It is our duty of care as leaders to also protect our staff and give them a way to protect themselves and the integrity of the work they are creating, which is what ‘Press Pause’ does. We know psychological safety is key to driving equity and inclusion. The fact is diverse staff will not stay in your business or the industry if their voice is not respected, valued and heard, but for many, it can be challenging to speak up, particularly in front of clients or in situations where they are not in a position of power. We hope ‘Press Pause’ will become part of a wider industry charter, which we are working on currently.’