In a newly created position, DDB Worldwide appointed Nikki Lamba as its global head of diversity, equity and inclusion. Lamba arrives after 11 years at Catalyst, a nonprofit that works with Fortune 500 C-Suites to build more equitable workplaces.
Previously, the agency worked on DEI initiatives with former Omnicom chief diversity officer Tiffany R. Warren, who left the company in October to join Sony Music Group. As a holding company, Omnicom released its EEOC data in July, showing that executive management, mid-level managers and those classified as “professionals” were 84.1%, 74.8% and 70.1% white, respectively.
“Creativity is pivotal to our success and, by extension, diversity is as well,” said Justin Thomas-Copeland, CEO of DDB North America. “To achieve our ambitions, we are driving towards an organization with a truly broad definition of diversity, and one that champions inclusion to grapple with pervasive racism and inequities in our business and in support of our clients.”
In her most recent role as senior director, Lamba advised large companies on strategies, initiatives and practices using data analytics and qualitative methods to generate business growth while hiring, advancing and retaining diverse talent.
According to Lamba, she was drawn to DDB because leadership at the agency is committed to bringing DEI to life in a “very strategic and sustainable way,” building on previous efforts.
“Having exposure to so many different companies, and seeing how people approach the challenges they face, you don’t always get that level of buy-in, and that can be a huge stumbling block,” Lamba said. “I was excited by DDB’s vision and commitment.”
Entering the advertising and marketing industry for the first time, Lamba believes that having a “fresh pair of eyes and perspective” can be a good opportunity for the agency and its talent.
“Across industries, there are some systemic issues everyone is facing,” she said. “My goal is to go in and figure out what makes DDB unique and work towards addressing those issues.”
Lamba sees the first few months in the role as an opportunity to listen deeply and understand the experience of talent at the agency, while adopting a quantitative and qualitative approach that centers DDB’s people.
“Spending time working with teams, people and leaders who might be anxious or curious [is crucial],” noted Lamba. “We need to give them the space to talk and to understand what this means and get their support because, ultimately, I’m one person in a company of thousands and there needs to be coalition-building, like in any company.”
As far as what progress and success will look like, Lamba will look at data points that give her a sense of the business’s health, related to talent. The plan is to also create a constant feedback loop that allows her to course-correct, ensuring that strategies and programs work across the entirety of DDB.
Additionally, acknowledging the challenges of 2020, Lamba believes that 2021 is crucial in giving talent a sense of security and belonging, knowing that their work is positively impacting the agency’s business. Even then, ensuring that the quantitative side of the equation is working is a priority.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that what gets measured gets done,” she said. “Some companies measure up front, do a little bit of the work, it loses momentum and it’s not constantly tracked or prioritized. And a DEI strategy is part of the business strategy.”
Of Indian descent, Lamba has benefited from living in different countries and being exposed to people from many different cultures. Speaking about her personal lived experience, she noted that there were “moments in my life where I feel I’ve been a little on the outside, looking in. And there are moments where I’ve been part of the ‘in group.’”