True state of agencies revealed: The Agency Circle results are in

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 21 August 2017
The industry is 85% caucasian, 15% non-caucasian, 6% Asian and just 1% Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander

A year ago 15 agencies across Australia asked every employee on the books to complete a survey about their experience in the workplace when it comes to diversity, and perceptions of diversity.

It was part of The Agency Circle, which launched in 2016 in response to increasing frustrations around diversity, or the lack of it, in creative agencies.

Now, the results from the 1200 responses are in and it paints a clear, but not unsurprising picture of the state of diversity in Australian agencies.

Former director of strategy at VCCP Michele O’Neill, who led the launch of The Agency Circle, said earlier this year that the agencies involved “have nothing to be proud of yet”, but called it a “powerful opportunity [for agency leaders] to shape the future of communications agencies in Australia.”

Here’s some of the topline findings, averaged out across all participating agencies:

Unsurprisingly, the industry skews young and caucasian, senior roles skew male, account services skews female, creatives skew male, HR/finance/admin roles skew female and tech roles skew male.

  • The industry is 85% caucasian, 15% non-caucasian, 6% Asian and just one Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander completed the survey
  • 53% female, 46% male, 1% other
  • CEO/MD roles were 84% male, 16% female
  • Creative and design roles are 71% male, 29% female
  • Account management roles are 64% female, 36% male
  • 45% of the respondents were under 30, 30% were in their 30s and less than 20% were over 40

One particularly troubling area for Emily Perrett, chair of The Agency Circle and MD of Clemenger Sydney,  both about her agency and the entire industry, was sexual harassment. A staggering 42% of female employees across all agencies reported they have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career in advertising. A total of 20% said they had experienced it “more than few times”. A third of senior management know women who have experienced sexual harassment. Some agencies’ results skewed higher and others lower.

Other findings include:

Almost half (45%) of women said they feel vulnerable because they are women.

Most men (51%) and women (68%) surveyed agreed that the gender balance in the industry is somewhere between “mediocre and terrible” but the consensus is it's better than it was.

Another concerning area was that two thirds of people said discrimination and harassment are often made into a joke. Half have been on the receiving end of it and half have witnessed it.

On flexibility, 30% of women feel mothers are overlooked for promotions, while just 12% of men think this is the case. 30% of all people said their agency is supportive of women taking maternity leave, meaning 70% are not.

While the results of the survey above are averaged across the industry, and all results are anonymous, Clemenger BBDO Sydney has revealed its own numbers to AdNews. You can see how Clems fares against the rest of the industry here. Read: Clemenger bares all in diversity survey.

Questions the survey asks agency employees to answer span all aspects of diversity, such as; ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, gender and age.

It touches on whether people feel they have been discriminated against, or are vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of any of those factors, if they believe ad agencies are any more or less sexist, or inclusive, than they were in the past, whether they have seen or experienced harassment, if people are over-sensitive on the topic, if their agency is supportive of flexible working for mothers and fathers, and equal opportunities.

The survey is about to go into its second year, which will for the first time offer agencies the ability to benchmark their own progress against their results for the first year.

Any agencies wishing to sign up, become part of The Agency Circle and take the survey so they can start benchmarking their own performance and progress in these areas should contact Emily Perrett at Clemenger before 1 September.

Iris Sydney is participating for the first time this year and managing director David Griffith says it’s in part because it demonstrates that the agency is a good employer in the competition for talent.

“We’ll use it as a guide and measurement to push forward. It shows that the industry cares about these things and that they’re important. It’s getting really competitive out there for the best talent and a positive step forward in this space ensures we’re in the mix to get the best talent, and this will benefit us in the long run,” he says.

It’s the first time there has been a benchmark for agencies against their own performance and against the industry average.

Since getting the results from the first survey each agency has taken steps to focus on the areas most important to them. 

The second survey is about to kick off in October, and a telling point will be whether agencies have moved the needle on areas of concern, and if not, should they remain part of The Circle?

For Emily Perrett, managing director of Clemenger BBDO Sydney and chairperson of The Agency Circle, it’s about making a commitment to change, and while it doesn't happen overnight, there needs to be progress.

Read Clemenger Sydney bares all in diversity survey

Read Leo Burnett boosts female creatives by 26%

Read Why Hallway is moving beyond gender diversity

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