MDC Partners agency Doner has just hired its first leader dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Detroit-based agency, which became the center of a network of seven agencies formed by MDC Partners back in December 2019, announced it hired Shelia Minetola as director, DEI earlier this month. Minetola had worked with Doner in a consultative capacity since last November. She will be tasked with advancing the agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, both within the agency and for client-based initiatives, reporting to Doner Detroit president Craig Conrad.
Prior to joining Doner, Minetola was director of operations at Full Circle, a foundation dedicated to providing grants to nonprofit organizations, where she explained she focused primarily on neurodiversity and accessibility. She also has extensive agency background from roles at Campbell Ewald, Leo Burnett and Uniworld.
“The agency world has always been an area that I enjoyed and excelled in,” she told Adweek, adding that she felt she was the “perfect match” for the role given her agency and DEI experience.
Minetola explained that the role would focus on three main areas: agency culture, clients and community.
“Everything we do serves these three key areas. We continue to create inclusive work on behalf of our clients. We continue to support community initiatives,” she said. “Our agency, talent and culture, even while working remotely, has benefitted from great programs and events that are very strongly supported and attended. Connecting the agency with top BIPOC talent nationwide is already making a difference at Doner.”
Asked why Doner was only introducing a role dedicated to DEI now and who was previously responsible for ensuring progress toward creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive agency, Doner CEO David DeMuth said that the agency has had a multidisciplinary DEI committee responsible for hosting cultural and educational events for years, but it’s unclear to what degree this committee advanced recruitment or retention during that timeframe.
“We’re building on that successful foundation with a day-to-day leader that has already made a great impact on recruitment, our Black ERG and events with our community,” he added. “By adding focused expertise in DEI, Doner is in a stronger position for recruiting top talent and offering our clients ideas that connect with transcultural audiences.”
According to metrics shared with Adweek, Doner’s employees are 84.6% white, with the breakdown by gender being 53.8% female and 46.2% male. The agency did not share any information on the demographics of employees in management and executive leadership roles. The representation of non-white employees at Doner is nearly the inverse of the city in which it is headquartered. Detroit is less than 15% white (14.7%), according to information from the U.S. census.
“Through my network and past experiences, I will continue recruiting qualified BIPOC talent to Doner, as well as foster and connect cultural activities and events that inform and inspire,” Minetola told Adweek.
The agency also included information about recent hiring trends pointing to some progress in recruiting more diverse talent and Minetola’s arrival could help fuel further change. Of the 35 new hires the agency reported making in 2020, 43% were non-white and 57% were female, including non-white employees representing 64% of creative hires and female employees representing 55% of creative hires.
“Shelia has our agency’s full support in this role. Her impact has already been felt in talent recruitment,” DeMuth added. “Shelia is also working with internal partners and consultants to help recruitment and retention.”
Doner’s appointment comes amid a lawsuit accusing the agency of age discrimination. Former Doner creative director Susan Walsh filed an age and gender discrimination lawsuit against Doner in 2019. A judge rejected Doner’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit last August, clearing the way for it to move to trial.