Create Space Census - A summary of the comprehensive study into the advertising industry

By AdNews | 14 July 2022

The Advertising Council Australia (ACA) today released the findings of its Create Space Report & Action Plan, a comprehensive review into diversity and inclusion across Australia’s advertising industry.

The report, a collaboration with global insights agency Kantar, provides rich data into the makeup of the industry and people’s experiences at work – highlighting strengths, pinpointing gaps and identifying areas for immediate action.

Its release follows ACA’s inaugural Create Space Census in December 2021, which attracted 2,600 responses from advertising professionals across the sector.

A summary: 

Where Australia’s advertising industry is doing well 

The Australian ad industry’s Kantar Inclusion Index Score of 62 is far higher than the Australian national norm (43) and on par with the global ad industry (64)

  • 75% of respondents feel a strong sense of belonging to their company
  • 90% feel that they are a valued part of their direct team
  • Junior staff had the highest inclusion score at 67. U25s are driving the high inclusivity of junior staff as the inclusion index sits at 73 for this age group
  • The industry is not complacent when it comes to DE&I, with 73% of respondents saying their company is actively taking steps to improve in this area
  • Of those who disclose mental or physical health challenges to their employer, 71% found their company supportive
  • The industry employs a good spread of ethnicities overall 
  • It has also successfully recruited more women to the industry over the last decade
  • LGBTQI+ representation is on par with the Australian population

Areas for improvement



Gender attracts the greatest discrimination in the study among all factors including ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Many female and non-binary census respondents feel undervalued and disrespected. Women in particular feel that family responsibilities hinder their career, far more so than men with families. As such, the industry is recruiting but not retaining women into senior leadership positions.

Key stats:

  • 8% of women vs 3% of men have experienced sexual harassment in their workplace in last 12 months 
  • Women are 6x more likely than industry men to experience gender discrimination (23% vs 4%). This increases to 8x for non-gender non conforming
  • One-in-four women say they have been bullied, undermined or harassed
  • 1 in 4 female middle managers vs 1 in 10 male middle managers say they are likely to leave the industry based on their experience of discrimination and lack of inclusion
  • 38% of mothers say that they face obstacles in career progression
  • 49% of women say that part-time work has impacted their career
  • 56% of females vs 3% of males believe parental leave has negatively impacted their career 
  • ‘Double jeopardy’ amplifies exclusion for ethnic minority women e.g. the experience of discrimination and negative behaviour worsens when a woman is in a ethnic minority group and/or belongs to other marginalised groups based on gender, sexuality or disability
  • Women in advertising still earn less than men: data points to gap in earnings between 21.6% and 33% (this is data confirmed from multiple sources, not just this survey)


Australia’s ethnic diversity is not represented at senior levels in the nation’s advertising industry, despite ethnic diversity across the sector being on par with the population. This is well-supported by other research sources. Overall, ethnic diversity is not equating to inclusion and support. We’re at risk of losing people from different ethnic backgrounds from the industry.

Key stats:

  • Casual discrimination is observed by 50% of Indigenous respondents, 48% of North African and Middle Eastern respondents and 47% of Chinese Asian and 35% Southern Asian respondents.
  • Experiencing discrimination and negative behaviour at work is almost three times higher for people identifying as Asian (31% vs 12% to those identifying as ‘Australian’)
  • A clear spike in likelihood to leave the industry can be seen among the top three broad ethnic groups - Asian (26%), North African and Middle Eastern (29%) and Indigenous/Oceania people (28%)
  • 62% of respondents say they are Australian but also identify with other ethnicities
  • ‘Double jeopardy’ amplifies exclusion e.g the experience of discrimination and negative behaviour worsens when a person in an ethnic minority group also belongs to other marginalised groups based on gender, sexuality or disability

Physical and mental health

A relatively high representation of people reported having a physical or mental health concern that is ongoing and impacts their ability to manage day-to-day activities. Those dealing with health issues reported notably lower levels of inclusion, and experiences of negative or demeaning behaviours are higher compared to people without health issues.

  • 58% of the advertising workforce have an ongoing physical/mental health challenge 
  • 1 in 6 say their condition affects their ability to carry out daily activities
  • 28% affected by a mental health condition, highest among females and people aged under 35
  • 23% are affected by ongoing stress
  • The work experience for those with a physical disability or mental health challenge is poor generally: inclusion score drops from 67 to 45

Sexual orientation

The industry’s representation of people identifying as LBGTQI+ is pretty similar to the Australian population. However despite being in an industry commonlycharacterised as fairly open, almost a third of our LBGTQI+ respondents choose not to disclose their orientation at work. Visibility of LBGTQI+ people in more senior roles is not in-line with our overall distribution, possibly exacerbated by the fact that many people are not ‘out’ at work.

Key stats:

  • 17% of our workforce identify as LGBTQI+ - on par with the population, but Australian advertising’s Kantar Inclusion Score is lower for LGBTQI+people
  • LGBTQI+ represent only 9% of C-Suite/executive leadership
  • Among the LGBTQI+ people in our industry, 32% choose to hide their sexuality at work
  • 23% feel anxious in their job due to identifying as LGBTQI+
  • The inclusion score for our LGBTQI+ workforce drops to 56 vs 63 for heterosexual


The industry’s workforce skews younger compared to the profile of employed people in Australia, and this skew is even more pronounced in female staff. While people at either end of the age spectrum are more likely to mention experiences of  age related discrimination at work, it’s those in the middle who report experiencing the most negative behaviour at work.

  • 74% of our sample are aged between 25 and 44
  • Gender representation is unevenly distributed - more than 60% of our female workforce is aged under 35
  • While in the majority, the 25-44 age bracket have relatively poorer inclusivity experiences compared to their younger or older co-workers, suggesting they suffer more from demeaning behaviours at work

 Social mobility

Australia’s ad industry has a significant concentration of privately educated people. Industry recruitment supports the privileged but not others, specifically the working class. Public school education is even less common in our industry’s newest recruits.

Key stats:

  • 77% of the industry have completed further education compared to 56% of the Australian working population
  • Those who attended a private/fee paying school are overrepresented at 54% vs the national average of 35%
  • Employees are more likely to come from privileged backgrounds; this is very different to what we see in the total Australian population
  • Far more come from professional middle class families - highest among those in the strategy and planning discipline. 

 Overarching themes in workplace culture

Negative behaviours are rife with microaggressions a particularly common form of exclusion. The groups that experience or observe the most negative behaviour in the workplace are females, non-binary or gender queer people, lesbians, those identifying as queer, people with physical/mental health challenges, Asians, North Africans, and Middle Eastern people. The ‘double jeopardy’ of coming from more than one vulnerable group kicks in here. 

  • Almost 50% of respondents have experienced at least one form of microaggression - being interrupted or being talked over, as examples
  • 46% have been unfairly spoken over in meetings
  • 1 in 5 (22%) have been undermined at work
  • 20% of people dubbed “too politically correct” or “too sensitive” in calling out offensive behaviour - as part of an industry-wide culture of not speaking out
  • 42% observed casual discrimination
  • 30% felt undervalued compared to colleagues
  • Low reporting due to perpetrators often being more senior, and  lack of clarity and accountability


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