“When I joined Google, they added the word inclusivity. So, all along I had been dealing with diversity without dealing with inclusivity. I hadn’t been asking when I bring you into space, how inclusive is this space? And how safe?
“I got woken up to gender diversity and the pay gap. I started realising that as black as I am, I had unearned privileges, because some of my promotions happened because I was hanging with the boys.”
THE DATA DOESN’T LIE
Part of Masito’s talk was sharing data from an assessment of new television ads over the last six months. Women make 85% of the purchasing decisions, yet the majority of the ads have male voiceovers; less than 3% of the ads show women as being funny; and only 3% to 5% of the ads show women in positions of authority such as CEO, leader, business owner, top scientist and so on. Uncomfortable viewing.
Which agencies and marketers are getting it right at the moment? Masito takes his time: “Filmmakers are getting it right. I feel this when I watch films like Catching Feelings, Five Fingers for Marseilles, and Inxeba. I recently went to watch a documentary by Akin Omotoso, The Colour of Wine. It’s the filmmakers for me — short or long form — they are getting it.
“Inxeba held up a mirror to our consciousness and it was making us uncomfortable and I liked it because it made me uncomfortable. Watching Five Fingers in my mother tongue, Sesotho, was a revelation. I didn’t need to translate or decode: we underestimate the power of language in this country. Ninety-eight percent of our TV ads are in English. How? About 92% to 95% of our population don’t speak English at home.”
That’s why Masito drummed on about agencies needing to be diverse and inclusive. “The black person at the agency or the Afrikaner who speaks Afrikaans so well must know that it is okay to start from Afrikaans — and to do this thing as Afrikaans all the way though. We will put subtitles on if need be. I love this book called White Fragility. You can’t, if you are white, be nursing my black anger. And I can’t be nursing your white fragility.
They say when the student is ready, the teacher shows up. Mzamo Masito showed up.
QUICK QUESTIONS WITH MZAMO MSIZI
What language do you swear in? I like Afrikaans: it just glides better. And Zulu. Xhosa sometimes. English takes too long.
Favourite designer? MaXhosa by Laduma.
Best song to dance to? Sjava’s Iqhawe or Spirit by Kwesta, featuring Wale.
Best tactic for surviving meetings? I make endless notes I am never going to need.
Always splash out on? A watch and books. The classic brands. I’m a brand guy.
Currently reading? Seven books: I get bored. I’m obsessed with James Baldwin. His The Fire Next Time is my favourite book right now. I reread The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because I was reading The 40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. Sello K Duiker is there. As is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo and a book on the history of hip-hop. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. And How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know by Byron Sharp.