Posted: 19 Nov. 2020 05 min. read

Using the power of creativity for social good

Tara McKenty is Google’s Creative Director and founder of Rare, Google's diversity and inclusion initiative for the creative industries. Across her seven years with Google, Tara has also led the creative execution of Google’s Mardi Gras initiatives (Places of Pride and Love by Numbers), ensured diverse talent is represented in all communications, and built a platform to help remove unconscious bias from machine learning algorithms (Project Respect). As one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI+ Leaders of 2020 Tara shares how her experience and passion for diversity, equity and inclusion are helping her shape the future of advertising to truly represent the entire community.

Role models: Starting out in my career, I didn’t have any openly LGBTI+ role models because there were very few. I had never even heard of a LGBTI+ leader in my industry and we also had very few females in leadership in advertising. When I started my career, the global leadership team within my agency network was actually called the 'Band of Brothers'.  Because of this experience I have consciously tried to be open and out about my identity, to ensure that the generation behind me has visible LGBTI+ role models, so they can see what they want to be, and know that there is a place in our industry for people like us.

Changing perceptions:
When I started my career, our community just wasn't there. We were not cast or represented in any advertising or communication. Now we are seeing more LGBTI+ people appear in mainstream communication which is normalising our community, or at least sending the message that if large corporates have accepted our communities, then prejudiced attitudes are dated and are no longer accepted by the mainstream of society. That is the influence large brands and their significant media budgets can have. Brands influence culture and that responsibility needs to be taken seriously. Continuing to increase diverse representation of LGBTI+ creatives, marketers, and allies will contribute to having a positive impact on how authentic brands are able to be. There is a long way to go, and we still have negative stereotypes and unconscious bias that does exist, but in recent years it has felt like there has been progress.

My first CEO David Walden, a fantastic character that unfortunately our world lost in 2015, would round off a difficult situation by saying 'it’s just advertising, it's not a cure for cancer'. Often our industry can take itself too seriously, and this is a great piece of advice to stay grounded. We are not an essential offering to the world, but we can inspire, entertain, and use our craft to influence good in the world. I try and look at every new brief with an incentive to do something positive while solving the business problem at the same time, and I’ve seen success with this approach.

LGBTI+ inclusion and visibility:
We can all play a role in LGBTI+ inclusion and visibility by being fiercely proud, open, and seen. The more we can be seen by the mainstream, and by corporations and organisations, the more we can break down the negative stereotypes that the world puts on us, and normalise being LGBTI+ for new generations to not feel like the other, but to feel integrated into society. It often feels uncomfortable to out yourself, and can make you feel vulnerable to prejudice, but if an LGBTI+ person is in a position of visibility, what we do today will impact so much on what the next person in our community can become. The hope is that for every generation to come it will get easier and that we always remember the sacrifice and struggle that has come before.

Reflecting on 2020 – inspiration despite the challenges:
I have to say as a proud New Zealander having Jacinda Arden announce the most diverse cabinet in history was a highlight of the year. That coupled with the first female and person of colour becoming US vice president has really inspired me and given me hope that there will be more equity to come for our community and others.

Words to describe me:
A lot of hustle and heart!

Tara is one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI+ Leaders of 2020 – a list that recognises and celebrates the many LGBTI+ role models in business and across our community. For more on our inspirational LGBTI+ leaders, visit our Outstanding 50 webpage.

More about the author

Jade Rogers

Jade Rogers

Communications Manager, ICS, MCBD

Jade Rogers leads communications for Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing, within Deloitte’s Corporate Affairs and Communications team. Jade is passionate about storytelling and believes in the power of a compelling story to effect real change.