Publicis chief diversity officer Ronnie Dickerson Stewart is leaving her post after nearly a year —and the holding company has no immediate plans to find a replacement in that position.
The loss of Publicis’ chief diversity officer comes as ad agencies continue to grapple with promises of greater inclusion and aims to root out racism. It also demonstrates the ongoing challenges of finding and retaining leaders who are charged with addressing the imbalances plaguing the agency and media world amid a wider social reckoning. Back in October, to name just one high profile exit, Tiffany R. Warren stepped down as svp and chief diversity officer of Omnicom Group to join Sony Music Group.
Dickerson Stewart announced her decision to leave Publicis in a LinkedIn post last week. An Adweek Young Influential honoree for 2020, she was named as Publicis Groupe’s chief diversity officer in early 2020, following over eight years with Publicis agency Digitas, where she most recently held the role of svp, career advancement and inclusion.
Creating brave spaces
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd last year, Dickerson Stewart hosted a series of conversations about race through a “Brave Spaces” program she helped launch at Digitas in 2017. She also led Publicis’ “Pausing For Action” event on June 17 which saw over 18,000 employees participate in a discussion of how the holding company could address systemic racism in advertising. That event led Publicis outlining seven steps it was taking to invest in greater diversity, equity and inclusion at the beginning of July.
“My decision to move on was one that I made thoughtfully and in careful consideration of the inflection-point we each are navigating which calls for integrity, urgency, and authenticity in both how we choose to lead and in how we each do our part to intentionally advance DE&I,” Dickerson Stewart wrote in the LinkedIn post. She also expressing “gratitude” for her time with the Publicis network over nearly a decade.
She concluded the post by saying, “As I told about 18,500 of my colleagues on a fateful day back in June, keep your foot on the gas! As I architect my next chapter, I intend to do just that, and I fully trust those who’ve committed to this work will continue to do so as well!”
Renewed commitment to inclusion
Publicis confirmed Dickerson’s departure and said it had no immediate plans to fill the role of chief diversity officer. However, the company claimed it remained committed to advancing its DEI goals the under the leadership of Publicis veteran Renetta McCann, who will continue in her role as chief inclusion experience officer.
“Our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion across our organization has never been more important or purposeful. As we accelerate this momentum into the New Year, Renetta McCann will continue her leadership of our DE&I focus in the US,” a Publicis spokesperson wrote in a statement. “As a true champion of our talent, we thank Ronnie for her many contributions, and wish her well.”
Dickerson Stewart’s departure shortly follows the exit of a former member of her team. Aisha Losche, who was vp, talent engagement and inclusion, left Publicis last November to join Boston-based agency Hill Holliday as svp, equity, diversity and inclusion.