Celebrating super-role-models

The IPA’s Head of Diversity Leila Siddiqi talks about her work on the IPA’s diversity strategy and how her Asian Women of Achievement nomination acts as a catalyst to progress, particularly in the context of gender and ethnicity.

Today, with rising feelings of nationalism, the importance of positive diverse role models cannot be underestimated. From Mayor Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid to YouTube sensation Humza Arshad and blogger Mehreen Baig to name a few, the BAME community are contributing massively to British life.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard about the importance of role models and the huge contribution they make to allowing others to realise their full potential. This becomes all the more important when we look at people belonging to diverse backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, disabilities, social mobility and LGBT.

Earlier this week at the Asian Women of Achievement award judging day, I fully realised the truth of this matter. Over a networking breakfast and in between interviews, I realised how motivating it is to see other professional women from across different sectors, from similar cultural backgrounds. I was surprised to see how good it feels to have a few common reference points and similar experiences. Having access to a peer group where you can be yourself, discuss your ideas in a safe and supportive environment, with the best in class is something everyone should be able to do. In no way does this suggest excluding oneself from the wider society; in fact, it gives one even more creative stimulus, inspiration and confidence to integrate and shine in very competitive work environments (especially in an industry like ours).

Now in its 18th year, the Asian Women of Achievement Awards (sponsored by Natwest), founded by Pinky Lilani CBE, celebrate multicultural Britain and the contribution of diverse cultures and talents to UK society. The awards are not simply a night of recognition but a community and a programme of initiatives that offer the opportunity for candidates to meet like-minded women and build business contacts. It’s a particularly interesting year to be nominated as 2017 is the UK-India Year of Culture; the British Council, Indian High Commission and UK government have planned a celebration of the long-standing relationship between the UK and India featuring cultural events, exhibitions and activities taking place in both countries.

Celebrating multicultural Britain is at the heart of our diversity strategy at the IPA

In January 2016, the IPA set the industry diversity targets aiming for higher gender and BAME representation in leadership positions by 2020. Now all the big agencies are making completely public their record on diversity, which encourages competition and discourages complacency. In order to help achieve these targets we recently launched a Diversity Hub that makes the business case for diversity and calls on agencies to put forward role models who may be requested to speak at events, share best practice and act as mentors.

Injecting diversity through our talent pipelines is crucial to futureproof our businesses. To this end, we are expanding our apprenticeship programme, Creative Pioneers2, which recruits over 25% of its candidates from BAME backgrounds. We are also staying at the forefront of the diversity debate in the sector and indeed all of the creative industries through an active role at the Creative Industries Council Diversity group.

A good measure of how far we’ve come is in our portrayal of diversity in the creative work we produce. Commercial brands that do air non-stereotypically diverse executions are almost by default likely to attract more goodwill, comment, earned media value and social sharing. At the IPA’s Festival of Advertising Michelle Oliver from Mars  spoke about the difference the Maltesers campaign has actually made to the brand worth, through tangible KPIs in terms of YouTube views, percentage increase in sales, increase in how close people feel to the brand and also the number of young people this and has inspired who would now like to work for a business that is values-driven.

Recent actions such as Grey London changing its name temporarily to Valenstein & Fatt for 100 days to celebrate its Jewish founders; to Sam Phillips of Omnicom being nominated to represent adland to government on the disabilities arena and MEC’s ‘The Face of Advertising’ initiative at AdWeek Europe; and diversity being a key take-out at this year’s SXSW are testimony to diversity being a leadership agenda point and one that’s here for good.  

If you would like to get in touch with comments and thoughts on this article please email            Leila Siddiqi.


Last updated 21 January 2022