Pearls: Hey, what’s the Big IDEA?

By Jeff Barton, President, Oyster Creative

The first time Donald Duck angrily shouted those now famous words on TV was during the heart of the civil rights movement in 1954 almost 70 years ago. Now, as a white man who’s not yet 40, I admit that I can’t imagine what it was like to live in America during segregation and Jim Crow.

Fast forward to 2021 and so many of the events during the last few years have created more open discussions about inclusion, diversity and equality. Many different sub-movements and social media trends have already come and gone — like black box takeovers meant to make everyone pause and listen to the Black community. But words without action will never create real change.

So, what’s the BIG IDEA?

For us at Oyster Creative, it was staring right back at ourselves. We are all white, come from similar backgrounds and upbringings and have had the privilege of access to a support network. This has afforded us the opportunity to connect with the right people at the right time in order to be in the position to get where we wanted to be, in advertising.

Looking back on my 20 years of working in advertising in Pittsburgh, I’ve been a part of many creative teams and have led others. Every day we work together to generate the next big idea. But when I look back on all those teams, I can count on one hand the people of color I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’ve probably interviewed hundreds of people for internships and creative jobs positions and can honestly say that the number of diverse candidates who applied for those roles probably wouldn’t fill up that hand either. It makes me wonder, How much bigger and better would those previous ideas have been if we had diverse perspectives included in those brainstorms and discussions? What a missed opportunity for us, and the people that should’ve been in the room.

So that’s the challenge we’ve decided to focus on. Creating a way to bring equity in our own workspace, then hopefully into the Pittsburgh advertising industry and ideally into the advertising industry as a whole. A way to create real impact and opportunity.

The main roadblock? Internships. (Reference Link)

College students with internships on their resume are more likely to land full-time positions after graduation. But research shows that only 59.5% of Black students and 53.3% of Latinx students participate in internships, compared to 68.2% of white students.

Challenges for Students of Color

The racial wealth gap is larger — much larger — than the racial wage gap, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Median white wealth is 12 times greater than median Black wealth. More than a quarter of Black households have a net worth of zero or less, compared to less than 10% of white households.

The racial wealth gap

Unpaid internships perpetuate this inequity. Half of the internships filled in the United States are unpaid. Unsurprisingly, students from higher-income families are more likely to take these unpaid openings. As a result, lower-income students (including those who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color) have less access to opportunities in fields that tend to offer unpaid internships, including the nonprofit and government sectors. 5

Leveling the Playing Field: The Benefits, Challenges, and Opportunities of Internships in the U.S

Introducing The Big Idea Internship

Covalent, Garrison Hughes and Oyster Creative will lead a Summer internship program for People of Color interested in careers in marketing/communications and advertising.

The program will begin in the summer of 2021 and will host 4–6 people of color from both inside Pittsburgh and outside. The goal being to create a more diverse communications industry in Pittsburgh by highlighting and providing opportunities for people of color to gain valuable work experience and connections within the industry.

Apply here.