This interview is part of our Empowered Women series in partnership with FREE THE WORK, The 3% Movement, The Female Quotient, and TIME’S UP Foundation — a coalition effort to champion more equal and accurate representation of women leading at work, at home, in their communities and beyond. Read more about this initiative here and download images from the Empowered Women collection here.
Love Malone is the Founder and CEO of The Gradient Group, a premier staffing platform that connects talent with roles in creative industries. We spoke with Love to learn more about The Gradient Group, the importance of visual representation, and what inspires her when she looks to the future.
Hi Love! Tell us about yourself — how did you get to where you are today? What was your career path?
I’m from central Illinois and arrived in New York, taking a position client side for GlaxoSmithKline and then Merck.
Almost a decade later, I transitioned into the wonderful world of advertising through Howard University’s ‘Center for Excellence in Advertising’. Prior to completing the program, I was offered several positions ranging from technology companies to advertising. I chose BBDO after meeting an extraordinary diverse senior leadership team and falling in love with Central Filling (the company bar).
After years of working for the same boss developing award-winning campaigns, I followed him to Ogilvy & Mather. Russell was instrumental in not only mentoring me, he gave me opportunities to lead, promoted me several times, and was a champion in many rooms for me, moving my career forward to global leadership roles.
Years later, I started a small agency dedicated to working with large clients on small to medium projects. The Group Agency helped individuals with extraordinary talent build their resumes and books with high profile client work. Given the success of this small execution agency, I was challenged to do more. I started The Gradient Group with encouragement from civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and industry CEOs including Richard Edelman, Andrew Robertson and John Seifert.
The Gradient Group is an inclusive technology platform designed to connect all talent to the creative, media, and entertainment industries. What inspired you to create The Gradient Group?
I was inspired by online dating sites. I can remember, not so long ago, no one thought people would find ‘Love’ online — I mean how thirsty would you need to be not to meet someone organically? Today, online dating has given millions of people — old, young, rich, poor, gay, straight, black and white — exposure to people they would not normally have access to.
If you actually know what you want in a partner you just select those characteristics. If your cue of prospects is trash, you revise what you are looking for, update your profile. Dates in a pocket, who knew?
The increase of people dating outside of the typical parameters allowed more people to discover each other.
The good news, at The Gradient you don’t have to fall in love with anyone, just work together!
How does The Gradient Group facilitate connecting talent with opportunities?
The Gradient Group released the MVP this year and is now reaching over ten thousand people. We are a talent-first company, and our goal is to be an inside source for our talent membership and get them access to opportunities.
Our community is full of talented individuals of all backgrounds to be discovered by companies for both full-time and freelance opportunities. For talent members, we provide an industry compliant platform, allowing professionals to upload examples of their work, tag specific industry skills, experience, interests and more.
Peter Druker is credited for saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Our data-driven approach does just that by making the recruitment practice more measurable, equitable and transparent. Our approach eliminates the BS often associated with diversity hiring practices.
What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities to support the rise of more women and people from underrepresented communities in leadership right now?
As I am speaking to some phenomenal women, I would ask that we look at the last few years and learn from them.
The #METOO movement gave rise to hundreds of white women, opening doors to leadership, mandatory board seats, entrepreneurship and put a light on inequalities in pay, often leaving out women of color in the industry. Marches were canceled and a last-minute shift happened when people discovered they never asked anyone of color to be a part of a new organization that was intended to be inclusive. How can you have a sense of belonging if you’re an afterthought?
Ladies, we have an opportunity to be better than our male counterparts. You should not just hire people just like you, even if they are women.
What are your thoughts on the power and importance of visual representation to help change the status quo and champion more women and people from underrepresented communities in leadership across industries?
First, underrepresented communities only exist in the walls of the company. Let’s be clear, a community is not underrepresented in itself, the company just has not included them.
Second, I would like to remind us of the power of media for both women and people of color. When you only see a woman as a wife, no real career, little to no speaking roles as we know from a number of research studies, we minimize how people see her/she/they.
Understand that this should be applied when speaking of race and ethnicity too. When you only have stories about maids, athletes, gangsters, cue the rap music during violent scenes, we are shaping how people see groups of people globally.
Remember, the Black man in most people’s heads came from the media industry. Telling one story but shaping a race can be dangerous. Your pen is just as deadly as a gun fired out of fear.
We have the power to change how people see us, not just yourself. So the next time you get ready to post Black Lives Matter, cringe at a racist, sexist, or homophobic comment please ask yourself:
When you had an opportunity at work, what did you do?
When you look to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you currently most excited about?
Right now, companies are having their ‘Radio Shack’ moment. They were slow to innovate with technology and now they’re slow to innovate with talent.
If companies are slow or choose to not innovate in our industry with a spectrum of talent, voices and stories will become irrelevant in the future. Remember the BlackBerry phone, it still works but do you own one?
What advice would you give to women who are currently navigating the path to leadership in their workplaces and beyond?
Like in any good relationship, we must make sure we are nurturing our careers while making sure we are progressing to what we want our future to look like.
If the “company’’ doesn’t see you, treat you equitably or minimize your value… ‘STEP’, ‘BOUNCE’, create or find a company that will. You deserve to flourish.
How can people support the work you’re doing?
If you are looking for a job or information please check us out. If you work for a company looking to hire, promote and company leadership believes in equity, kindly refer them to The Gradient Group. Your referral will get them in, email us at Partner@gradientgroup.com
About The 3% Movement
Started to spotlight a huge business opportunity in advertising — the lack of female creative leadership and its impact on connecting with an overwhelmingly female marketplace — The 3% Movement has grown exponentially since its 2012 launch. Hosting events in 27 cities globally and offering consulting and certification programs that amplify creative cultures, 3% has helped drive the number of female creative directors in the U.S. from 3% to 29%.