Why The Marketing Industry Remains Overwhelmingly White

The ANA Educational Foundation is out with a new report (the legwork was farmed out to market research firm Egg Strategy) on the marketing industry’s efforts to recruit minorities in a bid to make its talent pool more diverse.

A more diverse workforce, most believe, will result in better, more effective marketing and advertising executions leading to broader consumer buy-in and generally better business results.

And as you probably know from working in the sector, efforts to broaden talent diversity in the space have come up short, despite numerous well intentioned initiatives. The new report underscores that a lot more work needs to be done.

The new study concludes there is a “fundamental disconnect between the resources being invested in diversity initiatives and the lack of belonging, which diverse students and new hires felt in their respective environments.”

Further, “the industry has focused too narrowly on improving diversity numbers and scorecards. Instead the focus must now shift to how we can be more inclusive as an industry, both to attract and retain outstanding diverse talent. Greater inclusivity is the key to improving diversity, and it has been demonstrated more diverse teams drive business growth.”



The report cites a number of factors that have slowed the push toward inclusivity and diversity, including management disconnects, microaggressions and cultural illiteracy.

The report spells out just how white the marketing sector remains.

Looking at the ANA membership overall, the racial composition is 74% white, 10% Asian, 8% Hispanic and 6% African American. Looking at CMOs within the organization, 87% are white, 5% are Asian, 5% are Hispanic and 3% are African American. 

Egg also pulled some stats for a group of 17 ANA member companies which show staffing throughout their organizations remain overwhelmingly white.

The numbers of course prompt the question: What is the right level of diversity? And it’s not that easy to quantify. In the report, ANA CEO Bob Liodice states: “Let’s have the conversation about it. If we agree to 50 percent more diversity, is that the right number? Does it give me the optimal performance for growth? It’s hard to tell.”

The report concludes: “There is a universal sense that the numbers need to be better, but there is no consensus within the industry — or in most companies — what those target numbers are to maximize business growth.”

What will help, the report surmises, is an industry forum to share data and talk about it. “Not being able to see the numbers or have the right forum to discuss these kinds of numbers minimizes the amount of progress we make as an industry. We will all have diversity and inclusion discussions at our respective companies, but the action is happening in isolated pockets instead of a cohesive group. Sharing those numbers is one opportunity.”

William Gipson, president, end-to-end packaging transformation and Chief Diversity Officer at Procter & Gamble, is quoted in the report:  “Diversity is not something that we should compete with other companies on, but something we as a business community should embrace together, to raise us all up.”

Added Chris Macdonald, global president of advertising at McCann Worldgroup: “Diversity is an imperative for all of us, but it has to be driven by actions. This study helps us focus and realize that we have to collaborate as an industry and with academia to find new ways to drive actions to address this issue now.”

The report can be accessed here.


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