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Diversity in ad agencies improving at painfully slow rate

09 Jan 2018  |  Ellen Hammett 
Diversity in ad agencies improving at painfully slow rate

In April 2015, the then IPA President, Tom Knox, set out an agenda that sought to improve diversity within advertising agencies - and, while the IPA's latest annual diversity survey shows there have been marginal improvements for female and BAME employees, it is clear that parity is a long way off.

Getting more women into C-suite roles is proving to be an especially laborious task and rose by just 0.6% between 2016 (30.3%) and 2017 (30.9%).

Given that the figure was 23.3% in 2006, when the industry was first surveyed - and that it has declined since peaking in 2015 at 33.1% - it seems unlikely that the 40% by 2020 target that the IPA set last year is going to be achieved.

Similarly, it is perhaps optimistic to think that that the 4.7% of C-suite BAME employees currently working in ad agencies - which actually decreased from 5.2% in 2016 - will reach 15% by 2020.

However, there are now more than double the number of individuals from a BAME background than there were in 2007 - 12.9% and 6.1%, respectively - with representation of BAME employees highest at junior level (16.4%), followed by media agencies (15%) and then creative agencies (10.7%).

The IPA's current president and CEO of CHI& Partners, Sarah Golding, said while 2017's figures might look like "they aren’t where they should be", the actions the industry is taking to improve diversity "will inevitably begin to bear fruit" - and that the "significantly higher" numbers for women and those from BAME backgrounds at junior level will help to ensure the funnel leading to the senior level is in "good shape".

"However, it is imperative that we ensure this talent stays in the industry and climbs up to the top spots," she said.

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