Diversity in the workplace

Diversity was one of the hottest topics at a recent major advertising event – and one of the most pertinent issues our industry faces today.

At Advertising Week Europe 2018 Michael Roth was one of many industry leaders to put diversity centre stage. He talked about it being a business imperative, asking “How can you be in the marketing and communications business and represent your clients if the people who are working on the clients aren’t representative of the consumer?”. 

Just a stone’s throw away a number of influencers gathered in Mayfair to discuss their own perspectives on the great diversity debate – and specifically gender. Exactly one hundred years on from women getting the vote it seems surreal that women were giving their lives to gain this right just a few generations ago. Yet in a world of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it’s also sobering to reflect on how inconsistent the progress towards true gender parity has been since that level of sacrifice.

Initiatives abound to ensure that the gender equality dial moves further towards the middle. McCann London’s policy that matches shared parental leave with maternity pay is one such example, showing put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is commitment by enabling childcare to be a joint parental responsibility.

It’s a topic I’m hyper-aware of at the moment having just returned from maternity leave myself, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. It is now acknowledged that not all diversity’s shortcomings can be solely attributed to child-rearing and the conversation is thankfully moving beyond that myth.

And so here we are, lucky enough to be leading the modern-day cause not through self-sacrifice but with an open and honest conversation from the gorgeous surroundings of Burberry’s café in the hope that collectively we can make progress. However, it’s not enough for women to hold these discussions in the comfort of their own echo chamber – to bring about meaningful change requires engagement from everyone, hence the involvement of our London CEO Alex Lubar.

As an industry we aim to challenge thoughts, emotions and stereotypes through our creative work, and yet what about ourselves? We have a responsibility to set the right tone and to truly understand an audience as broad and diverse as the world in which we operate.

It’s not even just about gender - there are so many broader considerations for driving true diversity and fostering a culture of inclusion. Back at Advertising Week Europe, McCann Europe’s panel on Truth About Age brought another facet to the growing diversity debate which prompted McCann’s EMEA CSO Harjot Singh to observe, “It’s ironic that diversity is talked about in such undiverse ways; imagination, creativity and ambition do not have a shelf life.” We need to diversify that debate to be truly representative of all.

It won’t be an overnight fix, but the hope is that these rigorous processes and debates will gradually move the conversation forward and bring about change over the years – and indeed century – to come.

Watch Diversity in the Workplace