Don’t give up on DEI

The culture wars are seeing diversity initiatives come under attack, but creative agencies are making tangible steps towards improvement, says Asad Dhunna, founder of the Unmistakables. We asked him what comes next

At the end of last year, 266,000 people on X liked a post Elon Musk shared, saying, “DEI must DIE”. It feels bleakly predictable at a time when conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion have become a game of political football. Considering the context, you might be cynical about how much progress is actually being made, but after a 40-minute call with Asad Dhunna, the founder of The Unmistakables, the truth feels much more optimistic, and much more complex.

Dhunna has been working in the creative industry for 15 years now, running consultancy The Unmistakables for five of those. The company supports businesses including Shelter, Unilever, and Studio Canal to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into their organisations by building learning programmes, developing skills, and creating strategy change. Over the course of his career, Dhunna has witnessed huge change. In 2018, when he started the business, Dhunna says CEOs and agency leaders weren’t even sure which department he should be talking to, but by 2020 the conversation had rocketed up to the C-Suite, where it’s stayed.

According to Dhunna, the quest for more diversity is doing fairly well. “My sense is that things are moving forward, things have progressed, and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that,” he explains. “There’s a wider narrative around DEI in the mainstream press and business press that is quite exhausting, but there are pockets of progress happening. It’s just how you stay resilient to those.”