As the Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at GroupM, Lukeisha Paul wishes to influence change by creating more opportunities for voices to be heard. “I used to say I’d be the voice for the voiceless, but I’ve since changed that to, I’d like to help empower everyone to find and use their own voice. No matter where you sit in an organization, what you have to say matters and can affect change,” she says.
Lukeisha doesn’t just build DEI initiatives for GroupM on her own, she speaks to her people and welcomes their point of view of view to assist her in creating the GroupM they want to work for and feel inspired to recommend to others. She proudly says that they’ve made tremendous strides over the past several years and as a result earned recognition placing on Seamount’s Inclusion Index survey and being named a 2021 Best Place to work for Multicultural Women. “The awards and recognitions aren’t proof that we are done, but are building blocks making a difference for their work culture and communities.
Lukeisha establishing herself as a promising D&I leader
Prior to her role as a DEI leader, Lukeisha worked in Media. Right out of the gate post college graduation, she knew she wanted to be in the advertising industry, as it is always evolving, generating ongoing learning experiences, growth opportunities, growth and life-changing moments that make the long nights and challenging clients all worth it.
Once she reached a certain level of leadership, Lukeisha found herself advocating for the rights of others. She would make every effort to the save people that didn’t “fit in” or weren’t given the same opportunities to succeed. She persuades clients to rethink the imagery used in there media campaigns and products that lacked diverse representation or advise to refrain from eliminating the African American or Hispanic budget from their media plans as data showed that a substantial portion of their sales came from those target audiences. She used her authority to make changes and have conversations that were necessary, even if it was limited to just a few.
Today Lukeisha works to embed DEI throughout the workplace, workforce, and marketplace. She gets to reimagine policies and practices that historically created barriers to equity; build communities that celebrates, educates and supports varying identity groups through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) (Black and LatinX, Asian Pacific Islanders, People with different abilities, LGBTQIA+, Women and Veterans); and implement a DEI educational curriculum of workshops from Managing Bias in the Workplace to Race and Culture Matter; develop programs such as the GroupM Media Externship and Mentor program that foster equity and inclusion for underrepresented groups that lack access, awareness and exposure to the media industry; and consult with clients on their internal workplace inclusion and diverse target campaigns.
Everyone’s success aligns with their calling
If you’re working on what you’re not just good at doing, but what fuels your passion, then you’ll be successful. Lukeisha defines success as walking and working with purpose. “My calling has always been to create equitable opportunities, ensure inclusivity, and foster spaces of belonging for people of varying backgrounds. As the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at GroupM I’m given the opportunity champion diversity, promote inclusivity, and help create equitable opportunities for people’s personal and professional development,” she states.
Challenges make you stronger
Regardless of the adversity and challenges you face, it is always important to remind yourself of your potential. Challenges throughout Lukeisha’s life personally and professionally have made her stronger, it’s in those times, when under pressure, she says she experiences the most growth and confidence knowing she has overcome something, and she always does.
Lukeisha entered the media industry in the early 2000s when it was a place of affluent privilege, and majority white and male –dominated. As a black, first-generation immigrant woman of Caribbean and LatinX descent, with a low socio-economic background and no prior exposure to Corporate America, she was certainly met with challenges. Despite her differences, she had to learn how to navigate this space. “This experience, the good, the bad, and the ugly taught me how to face adversities and sparked a passion in me to mentor others, because if I made it, I know everyone else can,” she states.
In the words of Barack Obama, “The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.” That was Lukeisha’s philosophy and today she happily serves as a resource to others to help expand networks, give guidance on professional and personal growth and feel comfortable with bringing their full, authentic selves to work.
The beginning of Lukeisha’s career in this field of work
For several years, while working in media at GroupM, Lukeisha and a team of industry colleagues served (and still today) on the steering committee of the Advertising Club of NY helping to produce DEI programming aimed at diversifying the ad industry. Everyone often discussed the DEI work they were doing at their companies.
One day she approached her Chief People Officer and asked, what she can share that GroupM is doing in diversity and inclusion, she replied we’re not doing much. This was not an ok response, and Lukeisha felt the need to help create a better one. “In that conversation, she let me know the company was thinking of hiring someone to lead the efforts of diversity and inclusion. Without giving it a second thought, I raised my hand and said here I am. Although there wasn’t a budget or outline of what this role would look like I began to envision myself in this role and the changes I would make,” she says. While awaiting a long process of approvals she remained determined and focused and would submit her ideas to her CPO. Eventually she was offered the opportunity to build the foundation of this department and lead their company as Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
GroupM and their services under Lukeisha’s leadership
The main goal at GroupM is to make advertising work better for people, and they work with their clients to provide best practices, guidance, and identify products, media opportunities and partnerships that can optimize their investment. Through their agencies – Mindshare, EssenceMediaCom, Wavemaker, and m/Six – they work to innovate and generate value for their client’s business through data, technology, and creativity.
As the largest global media network, GroupM believes it’s their responsibility to help clients assign media dollars as a force for good, and they are using their scale to bring about positive and meaningful change.
As the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for GroupM US, Lukeisha oversees DEI efforts focused on providing greater opportunities for underrepresented groups. Making advertising work better for people must be educated and mindful of the experiences of ALL people. “We must be equipped to advise our clients on how to reach their target audiences with greater intention and attention paid to diverse backgrounds. Productivity, creativity, and innovation cannot be achieved to its fullest unless the employees working on the client businesses are able to be their authentic selves, bringing their unique lived experiences, backgrounds and cultural differences to the table as equal contributors,” she says.
Lukeisha plans for the future of GroupM is to become the most diverse media agency where their talent feels like they can be their authentic selves and brands that choose GroupM as their agency of record not only for the tools and services but because they know GroupM embeds diversity, equity and inclusion across all that they do.
Best recognition received as a D&I leader
The best recognition Lukeisha states she received wasn’t so much of a recognition as it was confirmation that she made the right decision of leaving her former career in media and pivoted to working on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the media industry.
A couple of months after assuming her role, Lukeisha was invited to participate in her first DEI panel. At the 4A’s Decision 20/20 conference of over 200 media experts. They were asked a question pertaining to the “difficulty” of progressing DEI in the industry. “While my DEI colleagues were answering the question, I recall feeling nervous to respond as I had a different perspective,” she states.
Lukeisha remembers the day before Shelley Zalis, Founder and CEO of The Female Quotient advised her, “never to be afraid to speak up, as I may not get another chance and someone in the audience may need to hear what I have to say”. With that memory, she proceeded to share her opinion of “I don’t think it’s difficult at all. This is a room full of media professionals and in our business; we’re used to getting challenging briefs from our clients of which we have to deliver on. Treat this like a brief, know your target audience and put together a plan of strategies based on the objective.” Her response was picked up and reported by several PR and media outlets. “I’m grateful for that moment that kicked off my career, solidifying my voice in this space,” she exclaims.
Lukeisha’s thoughts on the changing businesses landscape in diversity and inclusion
Businesses no longer have the choice of deciding whether to make provisions for DEI – it’s a must! Consumers are diverse and they are being targeted daily with messaging or products that are assumed to cater to their individual needs. If businesses aren’t aware and unwilling to be educated and engage with those differences, they will lose profitability.
The spending power of underrepresented groups is increasing, and people are willing to forsake brand loyalty for brand inclusivity. Consumers are demanding to see changes, not just inclusivity in product and media representation but equity at headquarters. They want to be seen, heard, and valued in front of and behind the camera, from the product innovation team to the point of purchase. The fewer emphasis companies put towards embedding DEI into all aspects of their businesses today, the more work they will have to do to regain and reengage their consumers tomorrow.
“Around the world, GroupM supports publishers that reach more diverse audiences with sustainable initiatives supporting and reaching underrepresented voices and communities,” explains Lukeisha.
Staying motivated and maintaining a work-life balance
Lukeisha says that she maintains a balance in her personal and professional life by prioritizing what matters most to her – her family. “We are each other’s biggest fans and support system. When I work, I put 100% into everything I do, so when it comes to my family, I do not compromise spending quality time with them. They understand there may be some late nights and missed family dinners but those are very rare. When I log off from work, I give my family my full attention, and I don’t check work emails,” she says.
However, this has not always been the case. In the past, she worked long days and into the night, while her husband worked nights. He spent more time with the kids, and Lukeisha felt like she was missing out on a lot. She wasn’t seeing her husband or the children. Her husband and sons became the boys’ team and there was no mention of mom. That was the turning point for her to set work boundaries, and now she states that they are the Paul Team.
Lukeisha leads her DEI team in the same way. They discuss each other’s families and the importance of sharing time with loved ones. Work is important, but not more than time shared with loved ones.