Diversity and Inclusion in 2021 - The Year of Action

A look at where the industry is, and what we need to do next.

Following an unprecedented year of commitments from all industries towards improving diversity and inclusion policies, IPA Associate Director of Diversity, Leila Siddiqi looks at the state of our industry and explains why now is the time for action rather than words.

Diversity and inclusion has become a huge priority area for businesses across all industries. For us in adland, the business case is clear, as examined by Mckinsey and Kantar - diversity is good for brand ROI. According to Global MONITOR, 65% of consumers say it’s important that the companies they buy from actively promote diversity and inclusion in their own business or society as a whole. Being representative in an authentic way, both in terms of our composition and our creative work, is no longer optional. It is a fundamental tool that some of the best brands and agencies in the world use to drive profits, sales, performance, goodwill and of course to attract and retain the best talent.

The facts of the matter: All In and IPA Agency Census data

The starting point for any D&I conversation has to be the data. It’s the first thing to look at and will be the last thing to change. And this year, thanks to All In, the marcomms industry as a whole has a set of diversity data to guide further action and accelerate progress where it is most needed.

On 10 June, the AA, IPA and ISBA jointly held the All In Summit to share key findings from the survey. The All In survey was a ground-breaking collaboration between AA/IPA/ISBA and the first industry survey of the whole UK advertising workforce. It is part of the longer term All In campaign which includes an industry Action Plan that was announced this month and the three trade bodies will be engaging all our members to adopt it. Over 16,000 individuals took part (not company held data) and we now have attitudinal data, as well as across most of the protected characteristics, that we’ve never had before. It has also triggered a global response with the WFA using the same survey across 27 countries this month.

In addition to the All In data, since 1960 the IPA Agency Census has provided us with insights on the composition of agencies, charting overall employee numbers, working practices, staff turnover, as well as looking at the breakdown by gender, ethnic diversity (since 2007), age, seniority and department, within creative, other non-media agencies and media agencies. Recently it has also reported on salary gaps by gender. These figures provide a vital benchmark for the diversity of the industry and have allowed for data comparisons and trends over time.

Responses to this Census account for 80-90% of the IPA agency employee base and is therefore the single greatest source of diversity data for advertising agencies. It is also heartening to see that as well as contributing to the Census, IPA member agencies make up a high proportion of All In responses, both of which provide vital insights

How All In varies from the IPA Agency Census

The All In survey varies from the IPA Census in three main ways.

Firstly, the IPA Agency Census is for IPA member agencies only whereas All In is for the industry as a whole (IPA, ISBA and AA members). Secondly, the IPA Agency Census asks agencies for their company data and the All In survey is for individuals across the industry. And thirdly, the All In census is more detailed than the agency census in that it allows individuals to answer questions of a sensitive nature confidentially; employees may not wish this personal information to be divulged to their employers but are happy to share it anonymously.

How you can help to improve diversity and inclusivity

While there are some positives from the All In results, such as ethnic minorities making up 16% of the UK advertising workforce, compared to 12% in UK working population, it is clear that there is a lot of work to do, particularly in the three areas All In has identified in the action plan – Black representation, improving social mobility and supporting disabled employees.

We therefore urge you to download and adopt the BRIM framework, to look at the Social Mobility Commission toolkit for employers and to audit your company website to make sure it is accessible to all (visit AbilityNet).

There are of course many other means of achieving progress in these three areas and more widely- from sponsoring Black employees, to looking at ethnicity pay gaps, and hiring apprentices from diverse backgrounds, to thinking about how accessible our work place is for those with physical disabilities, and make adjustments where possible as we prepare to go back in to the office, albeit in a flexible manner.

The evolving All In Action Plan is deliberately small and focused. By tackling a few things at a time, as an industry, we aim to make more progress. Success for All In in the next two years (before the next All In survey in 2023) is to improve the experience of diverse talent across the industry.

Let’s label 2021 as the Year of Action; where we really turbo charge our goodwill into meaningful action that is results driven, backed with scale, longevity and a sensible budget. Since January there has been a new D&I initiative launched pretty much every month – from our own IPA D&I Essentials Certificate in January followed by our A Future of Fairness publication in February, followed by the All In survey on 10 March, the BRIM launch in May and the Unstereotype Alliance’s State of the Nation report in June. And there is so much more coming from #TimeTo, WACL, Outvertising, NABs, Media for All, Creative Equals, Bloom and many others.

With all of this support we have never been better placed to embrace diversity and encourage inclusion to foster a real sense of belonging for the incredible talent that makes up our industry.

As well as the All In resources listed above, do look out for the new IPA Fairness Hub, part of IPA President Julian Douglas’s 10X agenda, later this summer, download our latest publication A Future of Fairnessfind out more about our D&I work and check out the AA's All In hub.

Leila Siddiqi is Associate Director, Diversity at the IPA. The opinions expressed here are those of the contributors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024