A lower sense of belonging and negative behaviour persist in the advertising industry

By AdNews | 21 May 2024
Credit: Adi Goldstein via Unsplash

Women dominate roles in the advertising industry but a lower sense of belonging and negative behaviour persists as does perception of bias around hiring and career progression.

The industry’s overall Inclusion Index Score dropped to 56 from 62, according to the Advertising Council Australia’s (ACA) findings from its second Create Space Census.

Rose Herceg, WPP ANZ president and D&I Committee chair, said it was encouraging to see some positive changes in the data - evidence that organisations are taking action. 

“Progress is progress, especially as part of a long-term program that aims to drive systematic change over time,” she said. 

“However, there is a perception gap that exists across the industry, with those most likely to report positive changes belonging to the C-suite, being aged over 45, or identifying as heterosexual or male. 

“That means the groups most affected by the lack of inclusion and representation are not feeling positive change as much. We need action that makes a difference to all people at all levels.”

The Inclusion Index Score drop mirrors a global trend reported in eight out of twelve markets between 2019 and 2022. 

The Create Space score was driven down by perceptions of bias around hiring and career progression, insufficient support for skills development, and feeling undervalued compared to colleagues. 

The decline was among all age groups, but most pronounced among those under 34.

Being unfairly spoken over or ignored in meetings is the most common negative behaviour experienced by more than half of female-identifying respondents. 

Returning to work after parental leave also results in some feeling stranded. Of female respondents who have taken parental leave in the last five years, 54% believe it slowed their career progression versus 7% of males

The Inclusion Score now aligns with the national norm at 55, measured by Kantar in 2022, and is just ahead of the global advertising, marketing, PR and market research industry benchmark of 54.

The census ran in November 2023, two years after the first. Almost 2,500 people responded to the anonymous survey which used Kantar’s Inclusion Index to benchmark performance.

Awareness of inequality and underrepresentation has increased notably. 

However, the census reveals progress on several fronts. 

Females now dominate all five census levels: C-suite/executive management, senior staff, middle management, junior management, and intern/junior executive.

Women in executive management and C-suite roles increased to 54% from 46% in 2021. 

More than a third (35%) of respondents say they’ve noticed significant changes that have positively impacted diversity and inclusion in their company over the last two years.

Overall awareness of companies’ DE&I strategies and policies has increased by 6 percentage points to 59%. 

Small improvements in discrimination and sexual harassment were noted, with casual discrimination falling 4pts and sexual harassment dropping from 8% to 6% for females over the last 12 months. 

There is also evidence of a more open culture, with a 6 point increase in people sharing mental and physical health challenges with employers, and a 5 point increase in LGBTQ+ people who are “out” at work. 

Almost one in five people still say they’re likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion or discrimination, similar to 2021. 

This increases to 23% of females, 27% of LGBTQ+ people, 28% of females who’ve taken parental leave in the last five years, and 30% of Asian respondents. 

ACA CEO Tony Hale said the drop in ranking was disappointing despite the Australian ad industry’s performance being aligned with global trends in DE&I. 

“The future of Australian advertising is reliant upon a wide variety of people feeling that they are included and listened to. Average is not good enough,” he said. 

“However, the green shoots in the data suggest our strategy is correct and industry leaders are increasingly aware of the importance of DE&I. We must now stay the course.

“It’s brilliant to see female representation at senior levels growing steadily and we now know we have to address equitable career development and training, particularly for people managers, as key drivers of inclusion.”


create space ACA report gender may 2024

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