The advertising industry has come a long way since the hedonistic Mad Men-Esque days of parties and boardrooms full of the same looking faces but recent findings from a global census have highlighted there is still a long way to go for people to feel equal.
As a creative industry, most people would expect advertising to be an inclusive and diverse space but feedback from professionals working within the space suggest otherwise. We explore some of the key findings from both the global census and the UK-focused one.
Major challenges revealed for women and ethnic minorities in the advertising industry
In October 2021, the World Federation of Advertisers’ published the findings from the first global diversity, equity and inclusion, called the ‘All In’ census. Despite being conducted across 27 countries, it highlighted similar challenges shared by women and minorities working in the advertising industry globally.
Involving over 10,300 people from agencies, brands and advertising businesses, the All In census didn’t involve results from the UK as a separate census was conducted in 2020 to understand the working challenges here too.
Interestingly, both ‘All In’ censuses had similar results when it comes to age, gender, discrimination and pay gaps.
36% of advertising professionals feel their age will hinder their career
Key findings from the global census highlight the majority of discrimination stems around age and family status with 27% agreeing that their company doesn’t treat employees equally, regardless of age. This was supported further by 36% of respondents agreeing that age will hold back or hinder their career progression in advertising.
For an industry that embraces change and digital technology much faster than others, it’s surprising to learn that almost half of all advertising professionals asked felt their age will hold them back in their roles - despite their gender.
1 in 3 don’t feel represented within the industry
Both censuses highlighted a distinct lack of diversity across the board which is arguably the biggest challenge for the industry today. 17% of people asked stated they were likely to leave their current job as a direct result of a lack of diversity or even direct discrimination they’d experienced at work.
In the UK, one of the findings from the census was to improve the representation and experience of Black talent, as 1 in 3 talented black colleagues in advertising reported feeling like they don't belong in the industry.
A further 17% of advertising professionals said they’d faced discrimination based on their racial background with their wages being reflected too by a pay gap. There is clearly still a long way to go for an industry that has adopted changes in so many other areas but not having a diverse workforce.
Not only is there very little representation from a race perspective within advertising, but there needs to be a lot more work done to help people with disabilities feel valued and wanted in the workplace to help reduce the high numbers who are ready to leave.
1 in 5 professionals with a disability said they’d leave
Results from the UK census discovered 1 in 5 people working in advertising with a disability said they were likely to leave the company as they felt hugely under-represented and generally overlooked at work. Similar results from the global census highlighted 8% of all professionals with a disability had faced direct discrimination due to their disability.
Industries with a distinct lack of representation in 2021 will find it difficult to move forward or continue to evolve at the same pace which will ultimately impact how businesses choose to work.
“This survey shines a light on those stories so that action can be taken to address them. There is a business and moral imperative to do so.”
Gareth Rees, head of CX partnership services, insight division at Kantar
It’s clear the advertising industry needs to make some significant changes, as the censuses has highlighted. The purpose of the census was to get a real feel from people working ‘on the ground’ and indicates businesses want to make positive change within advertising. The best way forward for advertising agencies and businesses is to take onboard the real concerns and feedback from peers and actively make changes within their own company.
Change takes time but it’s also essential for any industry that wants to remain relevant and up to date with cultural developments. Using the feedback from the All In census is the best way for businesses to start making the positive changes they need to.