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‘The online world is a brilliant force for advocating change’

David McDiarmid, Head of Paid Search at global marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi, talks to GSN about his role and being out at work

‘The online world is a brilliant force for advocating change’
David McDiarmid

SPONSORED: ‘I’m originally from the northwest. I lived on the south coast for a while but went back to Liverpool for university when I was 19. I moved to London when I was 28, so have sort of been up and down the country!

‘I’ve been with DigitasLBi just over three years. I’m based in our London office but I also spend time in our Edinburgh office.

‘I head up one of the teams in the wider media department.

‘On a day-to-day basis, I help with the strategic direction of the team, and the development of the team as a product and a service that we take to clients.

‘I’m responsible for the training and development of the team, ensuring they’re supported in their day to day work and that they can deliver to our clients’ expectations. We focus specifically on search engine advertising and paid search.

‘Some people would say I’m pretty gay!’

‘I have generally always been out at work. I’ve never felt the need to hide my sexuality, and my personal characteristics and attributes … well, some people would say I’m pretty gay!

‘What I have sometimes felt in the past, when I’ve started a new job, is that I perhaps needed to be a little cautious in the first couple of weeks and months about discussing it openly. I certainly don’t feel that any more, but in the past I have exercised a little bit of caution.

‘I’m fortunate to have never experienced any homophobia in work. DigitasLBi is a really inclusive and open employer: I can express myself in a way I want to express myself.

‘I’ve worked in organizations in the past where I’d say it was important to be conservative in how you presented at work. It was never directly said but the impression was certainly given that it was expected you toe the line.

‘There were jobs where I felt that expressing my authentic self may have been problematic, but that’s not the case now. It makes a difference.

‘You need rich representation in your workforce’

‘Was there a moment when I realized the value of diversity at work? I guess I never really thought about it until I moved into a position where I started managing a team. That’s when I really saw the benefits of having a richness in diversity and backgrounds.

‘You need rich representation in your workforce in order to reflect the people that you’re working with.

‘I can recall a time when we were working on a project, alongside an external team.

‘One side of the room was really homogenous. On our side, it couldn’t have been a more diverse group of people – in race, background and sexual orientation. In situations like that, how can you seek to represent the communities you serve when what you bring to the table is so homogenous?

‘Nowadays, we live online and offline lives – and LGBTI people have been impacted by this. There are upsides and downsides.

‘Being in a more connected world is great for many reasons. If you’re in a country where it’s quite repressive, or lacking information and advice about your sexuality, being online offers the opportunity to find that information.

‘You feel less alone’

‘It also makes you feel less alone. Most people have apps on our phone to connect with others, which I think is a positive.

‘The flip side, as we spend more and more time online, it can de-humanize the our interactions. We’re less likely to approach people in social situations just to have a conversation with them. It can also lead to some nasty things: it’s easy to be trolled online or become the victim of abuse.

‘I think it’s also easier to pigeonhole people online – and LGBTI people ourselves have a tendency to do that, whether it’s butch or camp and straight-acting or whatever – and that can be easier to do online because you’re not having that conversation face to face.

‘The online world is a brilliant force for advocating change, but we need to focus on not de-humanizing people and homogenizing them.

‘A lot of the progress that has been made in countries where being gay is illegal has come about because people can access information. That’s when they discover that they’re not alone.’

DigitasLBi is supporting Digital Pride 2017. It will be hosting a panel discussion on 25 April on ‘The role of brands in a diverse world’. Panelists will include: Michael Islip – CEO UK, DigitasLBi; Michele Oliver – VP, Marketing, Mars; Jo Rzymowska – VP & Managing Director, Celebrity Cruises; and Richard Wilson – Founder, Stop Funding Hate. The event will be live streamed and available to view online afterwards.

For more information or to request tickets to the event, please contact [email protected]

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