In Ad World, Diversity And Inclusion Have A Long Way To Go

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

On Oct. 18, the World Federation of Advertisers and research institute Kantar shared results of their joint project, “The Global Diversity and Inclusion Index.”  Using the U.K. All In Census as a blueprint, the study aims to map how well the industry scores globally in terms of diversity and inclusion. In all there were over 10,000 participants, with men and women split 41% to 58% (1% reported as non-gender conforming). The study included 160 global marketing and advertising organizations ranging from WPP to the Interactive Advertising Bureau to local marketing organization chapters like the Association of National Advertisers and equivalents in other markets worldwide.

Spoiler alert: There is much improvement needed. But the good news is that, relatively speaking, the marketing and advertising industry is not doing as badly as other industries and services, the study noted. The worst industries were tech and telcos, manufacturing and construction: news that may not be totally surprising.



Globally, the most common forms of discrimination in our industry occur on the basis of family status and age, not gender or skin color. Not that those do not feature, they just feature lower than family status and age.

It's a fact that we have a lot of women in the global marketing and advertising workforce. That's great, and is also reflected in the men-to-women split of respondents as indicated. What is less great is that the large group of women in our industry score lower on all metrics versus men, meaning their experience is not as great as that of their male counterparts.

Consider their scores versus men’s on things like “Company sense of belonging” or “Presence of negative behavior at work,” and sadly the women’s scores reveal marked differences in experience from their male counterparts. This is equally true for the pay gap between men and women. Says the report: “However, calculating average global gender pay gaps for executive manager/C-Suite shows the gender pay gap is 13% in favor of men. For other senior staff, the pay gap was 11% in favor of men, for middle managers the figure is 7%, for junior managers it is 1% and for industry starters (interns/trainees/junior execs) it is 5%.”

What is positive and should give us hope is that most respondents feel their organizations are taking steps to be more diverse and inclusive, although globally this varies by country. But in all, it is good news that we are becoming a more diverse industry, which is already “better” than many other industries.

And as old farts such as myself make way for smarter, more diverse leaders, change can only accelerate. These leaders will also need to shift how their clients deliver marketing to consumers.

It would be ironic if the industry got better at solving for age discrimination in the marketing and ad industry, but not make marketing and ad strategies and campaigns for their clients more inclusive for older target audiences. I mean, come on, Mercedes, none of the people in your ads can afford, nor want to, drive one of your cars! And be real, State Farm, as much as we like "The Parker Promo" (and commend that commercial for its gender neutrality) the people in that commercial are still on their parents’ insurance policy.

So the glass is perhaps half-full. Let’s keep filling it up!

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