MONCTON – An advertisement for the upcoming Atlantic Immigration Summit caused a heated discussion on the Facebook page of Sally Ng, an entrepreneur and immigrant herself who took offence that five of the six people on the poster were Caucasian men.
The advertisement for featured speakers has since been taken down, and the organizers say the poster did not reflect the diversity of the conference itself and was only the first of many ads for events at the summit, which is taking place May 23-24.
But Ng, the CEO and founder of The Triple Effect, had already shared a screenshot of the ad with the following comment: “If a conference does have diversity…. Then SHOW it…since this screenshot definitely doesn’t. If we want to attract and retain immigrants, young people and so on… Then these photos are not acceptable…”
The event has more than 60 speakers from various age ranges, ethnic, linguistic, gender and social backgrounds, and Ng says three of the featured speakers are her mentors. But she said the advertisement needs to reflect the diversity that’s present at the summit.
“I wasn’t trying to bash the organizers or anything because I think the summit is awesome,” she said in an interview with Huddle. “But I think people just underestimate the power of messaging, and I think they just shrug it off. But it’s a big deal, and the fact that you don’t see it as a big deal is the point. It’s that we’re so used to [that kind of messaging] being okay. That’s the part that I have a really hard time with.”
Summit organizer Susan Chalmers-Gauvin said the ad showed distinguished speakers who will contribute to the conversations at the summit. But she said it’s only one of a series of ads that were scheduled to be published and doesn’t reflect the true diversity of the event.
The summit will have 30 roundtables, each hosted by a newcomer and a community or business leader. All of the event’s diverse speakers will be represented on its website.
“I’d say that ad was a little bit unfortunate. It was the first one that went up. What’s important is to make sure all of the other ads, which are more representative, get out there on a timely basis,” she said.
Chalmers-Gauvin said the discussion on Facebook shows there’s a lot of passion around diversity in New Brunswick.
“This is a conversation that we have to have,” she said. “If they feel that this ad is not representative, then great for coming forward and letting us know that.”
David Hawkins, the CEO of Brainworks Razor, the summit’s marketing partner, said the feedback from the discussion was useful. Brainworks has since changed the template of the upcoming ads to better reflect the diversity of the event and avoid similar mistakes.
“In the summit, we have tremendous diversity,” he said. “We just have to start telling the story. I guess it got started on the wrong foot. We’re sorry about that, it wasn’t our intention. Our intention was to simply say, we’ve got a substantial summit about to take place here on an important topic and here are some of the important, knowledgeable and competent speakers that you may know. Should we have been more thoughtful about it, more diverse about it? Obviously yes.”
Ng raised the issue because she wants New Brunswickers to pay attention. She wants to see more inclusive campaigns from marketing and communications firms.
“Every post has to be diverse now,” she said. “If it’s something you’re really trying to include the community on, you have to represent the community, period. If you wanna change it, then help create the vision of what it could be. The other side, if you’re a speaker, I think you should start asking [for diversity].”