A new diversity study of the ad industry indicates that despite efforts by agencies, most minorities working in the field believe their experience as an Adland employee is different from whites -- and that the industry is not diverse enough.
The study, from Tangerine Watson Inc., the cross-cultural advertising and media recruitment firm, comes just as the diversity issue is heating up again in New York City, where the Comptroller’s Office has submitted a shareholder proposal to Omnicom Group that would require the company to publicly disclose documents that detail the company’s minority staffing levels.
That proposal will be voted at the company's annual meeting next month.
The TWI study surveyed 831 ad professionals in what the firm is calling “the first industry-wide research snapshot contrasting the perceptions and perspectives of multicultural and white advertising professionals.” Roughly two-thirds of the respondents were from multicultural backgrounds and one-third were white. The firm also said it will soon release a “Best Agencies” report, based on the views of the minority respondents in the study.
One major contrast: African-Americans (33%), Hispanics (21%) and other ethnic groups (47%) are more likely to cite a lack of racial and ethnic diversity as a very important reason for leaving the industry. Only 4% of the whites felt the same.
The survey found that 74% of multicultural respondents agree that their experiences as agency employees are different from their white colleagues, due to their backgrounds.
One way in which that experience is different, the study found, was that minorities feel they lack access to mentors and sponsors. TWI did not cite an exact percentage in its disclosed summary of findings.
Another key experiential difference: career advancement takes longer for minorities, per the study. As a group, minorities were more likely to feel a need to consistently prove themselves, work harder and overcome hurdles. Also, minorities were more likely to experience “uncomfortable interactions with others in the workplace.” The study also found differences in general life experiences, upbringing, values, as well as cultural sensitivity and awareness.
The vast majority of respondents (89%) -- regardless of ethnicity -- feel that diversity in the industry needs improvement.
"The long-running diversity and inclusion problem will not change organically,” stated TWI founder Carol Watson. “We all have to take proactive steps toward fostering that much-needed change. We believe that capturing and reviewing the insights gained from this study can help move the conversation forward to implement a truly effective action plan."
The American Advertising Federation endorsed the TWI study. Constance Cannon Frazier, AAF’s COO, urged industry leaders to “utilize the information to further their efforts to provide opportunities for young professionals from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds."