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You may know Cindy Gallop from her TED Talk "Make Love Not Porn", which has had over 2 million views, or her work as an ad industry veteran and equality rights activist. You could also be familiar with her Black Apartment, one of New York’s most famous bachelor pads, featured in shows, music videos and many other photoshoots, or outspoken Tweets and LinkedIn posts promoting other women and calling out bs when no one will. Or you may know her as the “Michael Bay of corporate America” who literally blows stuff up for movies.
Cindy spoke with Bridges Unite about solving for racial diversity in corporate America, leading the social sexual revolution through sex-tech, inventing our own future, and more.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
In light of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent protest around the country, and the world, several big brands have attempted to join the conversation in different ways, one of those companies was Nike. In response, you tweeted about the lack of racial diversity on their executive leadership team.
What you are referencing to is my response to Nike putting together a very quick ad last Friday, in response to Black Lives Matter, which was all about “Don’t do it, don’t pretend there is nothing wrong with America.” I responded to Nike by saying “Hey Nike, don”t pretend there's nothing wrong with America, not one person in your leadership team” and I include a link to the Nike website where they have all their executive leadership laid out. “There is not one black person on your leadership team for a company that has made billions out of black sports people and black consumers. Change that.”
I have to tell you that I've had a ton of messages subsequently from current and ex-Nike employees thanking me for calling that out. Because Nike has a culture that is rife with racism and sexism within its ranks. What I'm saying to all brands and companies at the moment is if you really care about Black Lives Matter and if you really care about ending racism, the answer is very simple. The only thing you do is ensure, and then you publicly demonstrate, and show full black representation on your leadership team and at every single level of the company all the way down. And you prove and you show that black talent is just as welcomed, hired, promoted, celebrated, championed, compensated, bonused, rewarded, valued, and gets to thrive in your company just as much as white talent does. Just do that.
The reason I say that is because when every single company does that, that changes everything immediately. For example, in my industry advertising when you do that, you ensure that advertising is created, directed and casted through the black lens, and you get a completely different creative output in one of the most societal influential dimensions of popular culture. So it's very simple. If as a company you are rallying around black lives matter that is what you have to do. That’s all you have to do. And when you do that, you make change happen, and you also make change happen by giving black people the opportunities, money, positions, wealth and role model status that they currently don't have because of racism.
From your ample experience working with major companies, how far along do you think we are in Corporate America? There's a lot of talk, but how many companies are actually walking the talk?
We are absolutely nowhere in Corporate America. The reason for that is because at the top of every company is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about white guys. Those white guys are sitting very pretty, they have enormous salaries, gigantic bonuses, big pools of stock options, lavish expense accounts, why on earth would they ever rock the boat. They have to talk about diversity, they have to appoint Chief Diversity Officers, they have to have diversity initiatives, they have to say the word diversity a lot, especially in public. Secretly, deep down inside, they don't want to change a thing because the system is working just fine for them as it currently is. It’s like the old light bulb joke: “how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.” In every industry and in every company the light bulb does not really want to change.
How do you ensure that change really happens throughout the organization? How do you make sure that the people at the bottom of the pyramid are actually being listened to and subsequently ensure that the top is implementing changes?
What you do is you seize the opportunity right now to make that change happen yourself. Because you have an opportunity right now that you've never had before. The pandemic first, and then everything that is happening around us in America right now is actually producing a huge opportunity , because the pandemic is proving that the world will never be the same again. And that is a very good thing for those of us who will never listen to the status quo to begin with. Because it is only when things break down as utterly and completely right now, that allows new models and new ways of doing things to emerge that never wouldn't have emerged otherwise.
For years reporters have been interviewing me and there's a set routine - I love these interviews - and the reporter goes like this: “Say Cindy, are you seeing change happen in gender equality, diversity and inclusion?” And I go: “No”. And the reporter goes: “Oh, oh, why is that?” so I go: “Closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about white guys” and they go: “So Cindy, what do you thi