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Michaela Jefferson 

IPA Census finds 'marginal at best' improvements in diversity

IPA Census finds 'marginal at best' improvements in diversity

The gender and ethnic diversity of adland's agencies has made only "marginal" and "slow" improvements in the last year, according to the latest annual Agency Census from the IPA, while the overall employed base has shrunk.

The census, conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic kicked in in the UK, breaks down the make-up of IPA member agencies in 2019. Overall, the number of employees working in the industry dropped from 25,142 in 2018 to 24,866 in 2019 - mostly due to the decreased use of employees on fixed-term contracts.

Media agencies have continued to see their staff numbers increase, growing by nearly 400 year-on-year to 11,357. However, the number of employees at creative and non-media agencies has shrunk to 13,509, a drop of over 600.

Of all employees in 2019, 52.6% were women, occupying 59.5% of junior roles (up from 58%).

In the C-suite, however, women claimed just 34% of roles - only a slight year-on-year rise from 32.7%.

The census also found an overall average salary gap in favour of men of 24.4%, up 0.2 percentage points since 2018. While the gap at junior levels sits at 0.9%, the gap at other executive management level averaged 18.9%.

The overall pay gap was more significant in creative and non-media agencies at 28.1%, while media agencies recorded a gap of 19.8%.

Meanwhile, the number of employees from an ethnic minority background dropped from 13.8% to 13.7%.

While diversity at junior levels sat at a slightly higher 17.7% (up from 16.9% in 2018), just 4.7% of C-suite roles were held by employees from an ethnic minority background - a drop of 0.8 percentage points since 2018.

However, at the highest level of seniority (chair/CEO/MD) ethnic minority representation has doubled since 2017, from 2% to 4.1%.

Age diversity also continues to be a point of contention in agencies - 44.8% of the employed base were aged 30 or under, while only 6.3% were over 50 (up from 6.2%).

“Once again these figures show that while some improvements were noted in some areas in terms of the diversity of our industry, these are marginal at best and too slow in pace," said IPA director general Paul Bainsfair.

Yet, when taking into account the "inevitable lag between action and results", Bainsfair added that the overall trajectory of the data and long term picture looks "positive".

“To exact real change, it is incumbent upon agencies to take control. Now more than ever.”

However, with the Covid-19 pandemic putting the wider ad industry under unprecedented pressure, 2020's census - to be published next year - may paint a very different picture.

With that in mind, Leila Siddiqi, the IPA's associate director of diversity, stresses the importance of inclusivity in these times.

“On a societal level, the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities," she said.

"One of the most defining characteristics of a business is its culture, which is even less tangible in the current world of working remotely in a state of international emergency.

"We urge our members to preserve their core values, stay true to their culture and be mindful of changing dynamics and working inclusively in a fair and empathetic manner while we learn to navigate an online work environment.”

The IPA has a full diversity and inclusion programme for member agencies, including initiatives to celebrate role models, an apprenticeship programme, and reports and publications.

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