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Embracing Diversity in the New Britain

Embracing Diversity in the New Britain
Senior Marketing Executive Leila Siddiqi reflects on the major lessons learned from a hugely constructive Diversity Day at The IPA

Being born in Dubai, and having spent my teenage years in Karachi before moving to Oxford for university, like most graduates from that part of the world I hadn’t planned a career in the advertising industry.

It happened rather by chance and I now realise what an exciting career prospect this industry could be for a young, bright person from a different background.

From the industry’s point of view, it’s not about meeting quotas or targets but about understanding the direct correlation between the performance of a business and the employee ‘gene pool.’

For the first time, many businesses will see four generations in the workforce and despite differences in religions, nationalities, ages and gender, what brings people in an organisation together is a common goal which comes from sharing a particular work culture.

An inclusive work culture; which is well equipped to deal with and cater to multicultural consumers.

Smart businesses are recruiting for the world in three year’s time, not today.

It makes sense to adapt and look for where the future opportunities will be and what skills we will need.

According to the IPA’s latest report, The New Britain, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population in the UK has more then doubled in the last 30 years and is expected to double again by 2045.

This illustrates a massive change in just one generation. As we go through generations, we can see a fascinating change in Britain’s demographic.

A wasted opportunity; in terms of untapped consumers, markets and talent; unless our industry decides to work together for the greater good; was the key message following the IPA Diversity breakfast seminar on Tuesday, 8th April to mark the report’s launch.

It was refreshing to see the industry and its networks come together to discuss the implications of the top findings of the report on our industry, with regard to marketing communications, current representation in the industry and, of course, talent.

According to the report, about 13% of people working at advertising agencies come from a BAME background.

Hason Sandhu, MD Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London, commented that our industry is lagging behind as 18% of BME students graduate from university every year and we are behind law and banking, where firms are typically hiring between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of their graduates from the BME population.

Following the breakfast session, we opened our doors to over 80 BAME (Black, Asian Minority Ethnic) students as part of our joint programme with SEO London to actively encourage students from ethnic minorities to join the advertising industry.

The objective of this was to educate these students about the landscape of our industry, through presentations from top agency speakers about opportunities in the key areas of creativity and project management, client services and communication and data analytics.

After lunch, students were given an opportunity to feedback and tell us, based on what they’d learnt that morning, why they believed diversity was important and what we as an industry can do to reach out to them better.

They were divided into seven groups of 8-10 and given 45 minutes to work on their presentations. The judges were blown away by the impressive insight, enthusiasm and talent they displayed – so much so that the winning team earned itself work experience at top creative agency AMV BBDO!

The case for diversity is made. It is an area of concern nationally - across all industries and across government. Since January’s roundtable event, the creative industries are under political pressure to address diversity issues.

As far as adland is concerned, the lack of diversity in the workforce is an issue that’s found its way right next to data and privacy debates, the impact of advertising to children, the body image debate, etc.

The IPA has raised its game through its relationship with SEO London – since 2012 over 300 BAME students have had the opportunity to learn about our industry through open day events.

The IPA/Metro Creative Pioneers Challenge has attracted over 1,500 apprenticeship applications this year, across Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester. Interestingly, in terms of its own makeup, over 25% of the IPA’s workforce represent diverse nationalities.

To make a real difference, the industry needs to be working better together and join up on all of its initiatives – collectively IPA members alone represent 5,000 brands in 3,000 blue chip businesses, 36% of which are international – pretty powerful by any standard.

We are currently working on a think piece aimed at government and opinion formers, member agencies and SEO London university undergrads to demonstrate our commitment to recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds.

If you would like to get involved with the IPA’s Diversity programme, please write to Leila Siddiqi at or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #IPADiversity

Watch the IPA/SEO London Advertising Diversity Open Day video

Learn more about The New Britain report and Our Diversity Open Day

Leila Siddiqi is Senior Marketing Executive at The IPA

Last updated 17/04/2014

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