The Covid-19 pandemic’s devastating effect on the UK agency market has been laid bare in the 2020 IPA Agency Census, triggering a 10.8% drop in staff numbers in member agencies, with younger and older staff as well as women bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.
Despite the sector’s best efforts to boost diversity and inclusion, it appears that “male, pale and stale” brigade have survived intact, with overall staff numbers dropping from 24,866 in 2019 to 22,188 in 2020. In creative and other media non-media agencies numbers fell by 9.0% from 13,509 in 2019 to 12,298 in 2020, while the number of employees in media agencies fell by 12.1% from 11,357 to 9,980.
Overall agencies reported that just over a quarter (25.3%) of total employee departures were a direct result of the pandemic. This figure was higher in creative and other non-media at 30.6% than in their media agency counterparts at 19.6%.
Reflecting a general Covid trend, female staff have been more affected by the pandemic.
The number of males employed in member agencies fell by 8.1% year-on-year from 11,700 to 10,752, while the number of females employed fell by 12.8% from 13,088 to 11,411.
Part-time roles were badly hit, too, another area which affects women. The overall number of individuals working in their agencies in a part-time role fell by 23.2% to 1,240 from the 1,615 recorded in 2019. The number of females in a part-time role fell by 24.5% from 1,373 to 1,037, while the number of males in a part-time role fell by 15.1% from 238 to 202.
Worryingly, the overall percentage of females in C-suite positions also fell, from 34.0% in 2019 to 32.4%. In creative and other non-media agencies, this figure was 32.1%, down from 33.2% in 2019, while in their media agency counterparts it was slightly higher at 32.8%, down from 35.8% in 2019.
One bright spot was that the number of employees from a non-white background is inching up and now stands at 15.3% compared to the 13.7% recorded in 2019.
Each of the seniority bands used in the survey have year-on-year increases in non-white representation with numbers highest at junior levels at 21.9%, up from 17.7% in 2019, At the C-Suite level (comprising chair/CEO/MD and other executive management), 6.4% of roles are occupied by individuals from a non-white background, up from 4.7% in 2019.
The picture is not so good for younger and older staff, however. The number of those aged under 25 employed in member agencies declined by 29.4% from the 4,592 recorded in 2019 to 3,243 in 2020 with the 1,349 departures accounting for over 50% of the total decline in employee numbers (2,678).
And, while the number of employees over 60 in the industry is miniscule, this age bracket also saw a significant fall of 22.1% from 240 to 187 year-on-year.
The average employee age in a media agency is 32.0 years, compared to an average of 36.4 years in creative and other non-media agencies.
Depressingly, men are still getting better pay. Among IPA member agencies providing salary breakdowns by seniority and gender, a gender pay gap of 22.7% in favour of males exists, which is down slightly on the 24.4% gap recorded in 2019.
At 25.8% the gender pay gap is significantly higher in creative and other non-media agencies than it is in media agencies, where it stands at 14,3%. At 26.8% the gender pay gap is higher in agencies with up to 200 employees than it is in their larger counterparts where it is 20.9%.
Even more depressingly, white people are also getting better pay. Among respondents providing salary breakdowns by seniority and ethnic background, an ethnicity pay gap of 19.5% in favour of those from a white background exists.
This stands at 16.2% in creative and other non-media agencies and 21.2% in media agencies. At 21.8% the ethnicity pay gap is higher in agencies with more than 200 employees than it is in their smaller counterparts where it stands at 13.6%. (This is the first time the IPA Agency Census has measured this.)
IPA president Julian Douglas said: “The pandemic has hit all areas of our lives, and sadly but unsurprisingly our jobs, as this latest IPA Census reveals. With the exception of numbers of people from non-white backgrounds increasing in spite of overall numbers falling, the impact of the pandemic has exaggerated some existing negative trends.
“Talent is equally distributed, opportunity isn’t. Now is the time to turn the industry’s good intentions into meaningful actions. I implore you to read the IPA’s new report ‘A Future of Fairness’ which sets out a clear roadmap for agencies to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. We must also continue to celebrate those people and companies that are already making a real difference in the diversity and inclusivity of our business. We kicked this off with the IPA inaugural iList last summer, but this should only be the start.
“The awareness is here, the resources and best practice examples are available, it is up to all of us to put our words into action, for the sustained effort required to enable everyone to have their rightful share of opportunity.”
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