All forms of discrimination rife in marketing industry

adland 2Age, gender and racial discrimination are still alive and kicking marketing professionals where it hurts, and, despite the best efforts to stamp out rogue practices, nearly a fifth plan to leave their current company as a result; one in seven wants to quit the entire industry.

That is the damning conclusion of the initial results from the first-ever diversity, equity and inclusion census of the global marketing industry, carried out for the World Federation of Advertisers, which has identified key challenges around family status, age and gender as well as ethnicity and disability.

Based on more than 10,000 responses from 27 markets around the world, but excluding the UK which carried out its own “All In Census”, the online survey identified not just the demographics of participants but also their sense of belonging, experience of discrimination and demeaning behaviour.

The research effort was led by the WFA in close collaboration with agencies associations, EACA and Voxcomm, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week, Effies, GWI, Campaign, IAA and research firm Kantar.

The most common forms of discrimination identified by the survey globally were family status and age, with 27% agreeing that their company does not treat all employees fairly regardless of family status and 27% agreeing that their company does not treat all employees equally regardless of age. Some 36% of respondents agreed that age can hinder one’s career while 40% of women agreed that family status can hinder one’s career.

This final statistic reflects a key finding from the Census – that women’s experiences are notably poorer than men’s. There is also strong evidence of a gender pay gap in some markets. In the US and Canada, for example, the gap is worst among industry starters with a 13% gap in the US and a 20% gap in Canada.

There were similar findings for ethnic minorities, who score lower on key questions such as “feel like I belong at my company” than ethnic majority groups in nearly all markets.

In the US, 17% say they have faced discrimination based on their racial background. In a number of markets this is also reflected by a pay gap. However, in many markets surveyed, ethnic minorities or foreign nationals reported being paid more than the ethnic majority.

In an industry struggling to find the right talent, the lack of diversity and inclusion is a serious concern, with 17% saying they were likely to leave their current company of as a result of the lack of inclusion and/or discrimination they had experienced. Fifteen per cent said they would leave the industry.

The Netherlands was the best performing country on this issue, with 9% saying they would find new employment within the industry.

The report also shows that the experiences of people with disabilities are poorer in some but not all markets. Globally, 8% of disabled respondents say they have faced discrimination based on disability and they also tend to score lower against “feel like I belong at my company” than non-disabled respondents.

No disabled respondents reported experiencing discrimination on the grounds of disability in the GCC countries, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

Mental health issues are also still taboo for many. Around 7% of respondents globally reported a long-term health condition and of these 71% said they related to mental health. However, just 44% of them had made their employers aware of the issue.

The good news – according to the report’s authors at least – is that among those who did, 59% agreed their employer was “generally supportive”. The best performing country on this metric was Ireland, where 76% agreed.

Meanwhile, the sense of belonging varies widely. The global average for “company sense of belonging” is 68% but this hides a wide range of performance, with Sweden top scoring on 76% and the bottom market achieving just 53%. Again, there is variation between different groups. In the US, the score averages 66%, peaking at 71% among white respondents and compared to 59% among ethnic minorities.

Even so, most reported that their organisations are taking active steps to address diversity and inclusion but this sentiment varies greatly from country to country.

The majority of respondents feel their company is working hard to become more diverse and inclusive, with 60% of global respondents agreeing. The US topped the chart at 83%, although again there was a 14-percentage point difference between white respondents and those from ethnic minorities. However, in some countries this figure is significantly lower. In one market, only 26% of respondents believed their organisation was taking active steps to address diversity and inclusion.

There are huge variations generally between markets. When looking across all scores, Belgium scored highest of the 27 markets surveyed in Kantar’s Inclusion Index at 74%.

But one of the starkest learnings from the survey is the extent to which some countries reported figures significantly below the global averages when it comes to the absence of discrimination and presence of negative behaviours.

This is particularly noticeable when it comes to reviewing the responses from women in these same markets. These differences also corroborate systemic issues in some countries where there have been longstanding societal problems around gender, race and/or ethnicity.

The Census was designed on the basis of the All In Census conducted by the UK Advertising Association, ISBA and IPA in March 2021, which showed the British industry also has its issues. The findings, published in June, exposed a profession still led by public school-educated white men who seemingly squeeze every last drop out of their highly stressed workforce.

Despite these serious concerns, the marketing sector still outperformed every other category that has been analysed by research partner Kantar, scoring an overall 64% on the Inclusion Index, ahead of the next highest sector, health and pharmaceuticals on 60%.

But WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke concluded: “There are significant minorities in all countries saying they witness negative behaviours and discrimination.

“No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and we now know where progress must be made. The onus on us all now is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive – and to measure our common progress in a second wave in the spring of 2023.”

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