As the leader of the HGTV Communications team, Adlam is the go-to person for planning, developing and executing the network’s press campaigns that, simply put, build buzz and drive ratings. In 2020, her team delivered more than 157 billion media impressions for the network and generated more than 3,000 press placements in top-tier national media. Striving to improve in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, she speaks with her peers and leaders “everywhere, every day,” sometimes using straight talk or “what if” scenarios to highlight the urgency of getting DEI right. “The issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion should be reviewed and addressed every day, not just when something bad happens. We have to be accountable to each other. We have to keep this going,” she says. “When we make it into the room where decisions are made, we have an obligation to use our voices.”
Do you think there has been significant progress on DEI in the industry in the past year?
Yes, there has been progress in the past year. There is more open conversation and greater awareness that the lack of representation in the industry must be addressed. More career development programs have been rolled out to support diverse talent. We’re seeing more diverse faces in content on every platform and progress is being made behind the camera. It has been heartening to see companies deploy real dollars and resources to tackle the issue, often with their leadership speaking out on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. I expect that within the coming year or so we will see the larger impact of these efforts. It’s hard to maintain patience because we have waited so long to see any meaningful, industry-wide movement in this area, but I believe we are in a better position than we’ve ever been. The issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion should be reviewed and addressed every day, not just when something bad happens. We have to be accountable to each other. We have to keep this going.
How have you been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
The single most important thing I do is listen and mentor — formally and informally — all the time. I do this through our company and through organizations like Emma Bowen Foundation, and I love it because it’s so very important to support others who are on the journey with us and, if possible, find ways to sponsor and elevate them. I want to see things improve in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, so I speak directly about the specific changes I want to see in our company with my peers and leaders in the organization, all the time, everywhere, every day. I say it out loud in virtual rooms and I whisper in the ears of internal influencers. Sometimes I use straight talk, “what if” scenarios, news articles, personal stories and real cases from the real world to highlight the urgency of getting DEI right. I’ve identified and encouraged others to be the voice in the room so that we can run this relay together and lift each other up on the days it seems futile. We can’t change who we are and that’s why each and every one of us is a perfect candidate for diversity champion.
My best advice for fostering open, honest communication…
Let’s just do it. Open, honest communication should be actively encouraged whether it’s about DEI or anything else that impacts the business. When we make it into the room where decisions are made, we have an obligation to use our voices. And, if we’re not yet in the room, we certainly won’t get there if we don’t make our voices heard when it matters. Many of us hold back on difficult, open, honest conversations, especially those related to DEI, because we are way too focused on organizational hierarchies or because we believe the conversation will make others feel uncomfortable. This belief doesn’t mean that people don’t need or want to hear what we have to say. We should all appreciate when anyone spotlights an issue or concern that wasn’t considered and this should be the cultural practice of every business. Open, honest communication — and the exchange of insights and ideas that come from that — leads to barrier-busting thought and innovation. Who doesn’t want that? On the topic of DEI, when we thoughtfully explain why the lack of diversity is problematic, including how it puts the business at a disadvantage or why a certain piece of content or creative does not appropriately represent a specific group, or why it’s not okay to use certain words — or any number of things related to the ongoing championship of DEI — most people are appreciative. Sometimes they weren’t aware there were issues or sensitivities. Or, maybe they did know, but this time, someone called them “in” on it. I’ve learned that it gets easier when you make a personal commitment to lead and speak on an issue like DEI, every day, not just when something horrific happens in the outside world. Our understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion should permeate through our decisions and actions all the time. Open, honest and ongoing communication on the topic of DEI is the only way forward, so let’s make it a practice and do it.