Stonewall’s CEO lambasts marketing and media industries for ‘lethargy’ around diversity

Ruth Hunt, the chief executive of LGBT charity Stonewall, has told the marketing and media industries that they are “very much behind the curve in comparison to other industries” when it comes to diversity.

Hunt addressed the issue at the Festival of Media Global on a panel including Aviva’s global brand director Jan Gooding and Sam Phillips, managing director of Omnicom Media Group Ethnic UK.

All highlighted the lacklustre attendance of the session at the festival as testament to the industry’s lack of interest in diversity. Hunt explained that this could be down to the importance of personal networks in marketing and media.

“All industries to a certain extend surround themselves with the people they like working with: who they’ve got a good affinity with, who get what they’re thinking…you want to work with people who you gel with," she said. "The risk is that you’ve formed a very solid group that’s impossible for anybody who’s not part of that group to break into. And that means that you’re only ever thinking and talking with people who are just like you."

However the CEO said there is change occurring, albeit slowly, especially now as "millennials see through all that bullshit" when it comes to tokenism.

She cited Channel 4’s new commissioning strategy as one to commend: "They know that the job of the runner goes to their mate; that the first job in the industry goes to someone they know.

"Instead they’re being forced to think differently; more diverse content is a requirement and a more diverse team is a requirement. We’re seeing more of that, but it does require a very uncomfortable counterintuitive way of thinking in an industry that fuels itself on relationships."

Gooding, who labelled herself a "walking tick box" on account of her age, gender and sexuality, implored the industry to "get angry" about its barriers to entry and lack of diversity.

She added: "This sector has a lot of catching up to do. You influence so many brands and produce so much important content that you are almost the most important sector that we need to wake up to this agenda."

Last month, The Drum reported on the individuals walking the talk on diversity, such as J. Walter Thompson's Rachel Pashley and Creative Equals' Ali Hanan.

Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

All by Katie