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Marketing Diversity & Inclusion

Industry gender diversity ‘almost perfectly’ split, but creative agencies and C-suite positions still male dominated says IPA


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

January 19, 2017 | 4 min read

There is an “almost perfect” gender diversity split across the advertising industry, but agencies must take more steps to achieve gender parity within the walls of creative shops and at C-suite level according to the Institute Practitioners in Advertising's (IPA) 2016 Diversity Study.


Gender diversity ‘almost perfectly’ split across industry, but creative agencies and C-suite positions still male dominated says

This year the IPA and Campaign magazine broadened out the reach of the study and received responses from 131 agencies including 98 creative agencies. This compares to 2015 where responses were only sought from the biggest 39 agencies with a gross income of £20m or more than 200 employees.

As such, year-on-year comparisons are not possible, but the report did find that while the ratio of women to men was split equally across the industry that creative consultancies still showed a slight bias towards male employees.

In creative agencies 51% of roles were occupied by males, while 49% were occupied by females. Within the creative c-suite just 31% of roles were taken up by women, down from 33% from last year’s wider IPA Agency Census. However, those was an upward trend for women in roles at the level of chair, chief executive and managing director at 27%; up from 24% in 2015. The IPA noted that at all other levels gender balance exists.

However, the findings showed that in media agencies there is a slight skew towards females with just 47% of employees being male. Within media agency c-suites even loss roles will filled by women at 29%, a decline of 6% from a figure of 35% from the IPA’s annual Agency Census.

Researchers also said that while on a long-term basis the proportion of females in senior roles showed a strong upward the highest levels of seniority were only occupied by 27% of women at chair, chief executive and managing director level, and 32% filling other executive management positions.

Across all agencies questioned, the IPA found that there was a “marginal” male to female average salary gap, but there was never more than a 1.6% difference between the genders in terms of average percentage of staff compared to the average percentage of salaries.

The IPA’s ‘Make the Leap’ initiative invites companies to pledge to a series of industry-wide targets, including 40% female representation in senior positions by 2020 and a dedication to eliminating unconscious bias through training.

“The purpose of the survey and the public announcement of IPA targets for diversity is to provoke debate and to get the subject firmly onto the agenda of all agencies,” said IPA president Tom Knox.

“2016 will be remembered as a year when the issue of diversity rose to the top of the agenda, but if we are to achieve our targets of gender parity, now is the time to put these thoughts into action. I would therefore urge all agencies to check out the IPA’s diversity hub for simple, immediate ways to take those all important first steps to improving industry diversity.”

The Drum's recent Diversity Census indicated that over a third of respondents had experienced discrimination in the workplace during their careers. The qualitative findings suggested this was due to assumptions being made about an individual based on their gender, personal characteristics or background.

It also found that the industry is predominantly white with 85% of respondents identifying as such.

The IPA will publish the second part of its survey looking at ethnic diversity next week.

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