Industry makes DE&I gains but discrimination still rife

office_agency_people2Advertising and marketing industry leaders have vowed to redouble their efforts to make the sector more inclusive following the publication of the 2023 All In Census results, which reveal there is still plenty of work to do – especially on all forms of discrimination – despite some progress.

Organised by the Advertising Association, the IPA and ISBA, with support from other trade bodies including the DMA, the “All in Census” took place in March and asked practitioners – whether client, agency or supplier side – to share experiences in the workplace in an effort to collect a unique industry dataset.

Almost 19,000 practitioners from across the industry, spanning agencies, media owners, tech companies and brand marketing teams, responded to the initiative – compared to 16,000 in 2021 – making it one of the largest surveys of its kind undertaken by any UK industry.

The analysis, presented by Kantar and supported by UK advertising think tank Credos, shows some progress has been made on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), with respondents indicating a sense of belonging up 2 percentage points to 71% and a presence of negative behaviour down 1 percentage point to 15%, with an All In Inclusion Index score of 69%, up 2 percentage points since 2021.

However, many issues remain. Once again, over half of women who responded feel that taking parental leave has negatively impacted their career progression, while nearly a third (29%) believe their gender is a hinderance to career progression in the industry, more than twice the proportion of men.

For the first time in 2023, questions relating to menopause and the workplace were also included. The data shows one in four women would not feel comfortable approaching their manager about menopausal symptoms.

Meanwhile, 11% of all respondents and 8% of C-suite respondents are disabled based on the Equality Act 2010 definition, much lower than the 14% in the UK working population.

In addition, only 20% of the workforce are from a working class background compared to 40% of the UK population, while nearly one in five (19%) attended a fee-paying school versus 8% in the general population – a figure which has remained virtually unchanged from the 2021 Census.

Another area which has not been tackled is stress. As in 2021, a third of respondents were affected by stress or anxiety and for 14%, that stress/anxiety was primarily work related.

However, there have been improvements, especially in the representation of ethnic minorities, which exceeded that of the UK working population. Some 18% of respondents were from a minority ethnic background, of those 4% were black and 8% Asian.

Levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment of ethnic minorities are also lower in 2023 than in 2021, albeit marginally.

Most notable is the decline in relation to Asian people likely to leave the industry, falling from 27% in 2021 to 21% in 2023 but worryingly three in ten black people stated they were likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion and/or discrimination. One in ten people from an ethnic minority had personally experienced racial discrimination at their current company.

Black and Asian respondents were also more likely than any other minority group to have personally experienced discrimination at their current company – 14% and 11% respectively. These were followed by Muslims and women as the next most likely to experience discrimination – both 9%.

The proportion identifying as LGB+ in the survey was significantly higher than the UK average, though there is work needed to improve representation at C-suite.

The issue of industry’s age profile is also proving a difficult nut to crack, despite wider calls for older people to return to the workforce.

Nearly three quarters of the sample are in the 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 age brackets, compared with just under half of the UK working population. Some 12% of respondents in the 55-64 age bracket have felt personally discriminated against due to their age, more than double the industry average.

Also new to 2023, the Census looked at the rise of hybrid working, with the average number of days spent working in the office for full time employees being 2.2 days while the number that respondents would ideally like to spend in the office was 1.9 days.

Finally, on staff retention, one in five respondents said they were likely to leave their company in the next 12 months with the overwhelming reason being better opportunities/salary elsewhere, relevant to 71% of potential leavers. This was followed by poor work-life balance and changing career.

All In Working Group chair Kathryn Jacob said: “This second All In Census provides us with an even richer set of data to understand where we need to focus efforts to make progress. The All In team and the many All In Champion organisations are committed to taking these latest results and using them to help drive forward to achieve a fully inclusive workplace for everyone who works in our industry.”

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