How Empower Hour is Creating Equitable Conversations

The acknowledgement of racial and gender disparity in advertising agencies has been met with slow change. So, where do we start as future advertisers to make agencies more inclusive and equitable? For TXADPR professor Rohitash Rao, finding the tactics necessary to create equitable agencies begins with a conversation.

Rao began a web series titled "Empower Hour" in late September 2020, and fourth-year advertising student, Alexandra Trujillo has served as a host since then. What started as a speaker series dedicated to highlighting diverse TXADPR graduates, has developed into insightful conversations that remind students that the industry is theirs to change.

Speaker series can feel unrelatable for many people of color, who lack the support to navigate  the competitive industry of advertising and public relations. In a virtual interview, Professor Rao explained that Empower Hour strays from the polished standard of most industry talks to foster greater connections.

“I imagine it as we are sitting around a coffee table,” Rao said. “We’re all just equals, there’s no spotlight or special chair (these speakers) are sitting in.”

Treating students and industry professionals as equals has been at the core of Empower Hour’s mission. In doing so, the series has introduced students to first-hand experiences with diversity issues in the advertising world with a distinct openness. By hearing what it feels like to face barriers from people in the industry, students learn the necessary knowledge to inform future diversity and inclusion initiatives in their internships, workplace and lives.

In a virtual interview, Trujillo spoke about the importance of hearing industry experiences from diverse backgrounds as we begin to work toward equitable environments across the board.

“(For people of color) it’s so important to tune in so we can utilize (industry professionals’) advice to change the industry in a way we want to see it be changed” Trujillo said. “I want allies to tune in so they could see what we’ve gone through to make our voices heard.”

As some of us gear up to graduate, we prepare to enter an industry facing a lot of questions. At the same time, we are asking ourselves a lot of questions regarding our identity, job choices, future plans, the list goes on–it's confusing.

Besides learning about ways to change the industry, Empower Hour to Rao is a way for students to help answer some of those questions.

“It's about trying to figure out what’s your purpose, what is your supposed self-manifesto, what is it that you actually want to say to the world?”

Vio Dorantes