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Women in marketing leadership roles soar, diverse representation lags far behind


By Kenneth Hein, US Editor

October 27, 2020 | 4 min read

There has been a surge of women stepping into leading positions at advertising, media and tech companies, according to the third annual #Inclusive100 benchmarking study from She Runs It and Diversity Best Practices. However, the story for people of color is very different.

Women now hold 45.4% of all executive positions, according to a new report.

Women now hold 45.4% of all executive positions, according to a new report.

Women taking the leadership reigns at advertising, media and tech (AMT) companies are on the rise. But, Black and Latinx are still greatly underrepresented. These are the key takeaways from the third annual #Inclusive100 benchmarking study from She Runs It and Diversity Best Practices.

Women now hold 45.4% of all executive positions compared to just 29% last year. While the number Black people in the AMT industry grew 13.1% and Latinx employees are up 11%, this still only brings the industry to 4.6% and 6.6% representation, respectively, overall.

“The last couple of months, everyone wants to see action. It will be interesting to see over the next cycle, how these numbers will change,” says Carol Watson, Chief Inclusion officer, BCW global and co-founder of #Inclusive100. “Building critical mass on this is really the ideal way to keep our foot on the gas.”

The goal of the index is to have 100 companies participate by 2021. Within the last two months, P&G, GM and IBM have joined. There are currently 46 partners, up 48% from last year. Other partners include Adobe, Edelman, Publicis and others.

DEI departments staff up, other areas still far behind

While a number of areas are sorely lacking, the growth of diversity, equity and inclusion offices is a bright spot. Nintey-two percent of #Inclusive100 companies increased the size of their DEI office, an incease of 67%.

Despite the growth of these departments, the still appears to be limited advancement for diverse employees within advertising, media and tech companies. According to the study, 17% of employees were promoted last year, 75% were white and only 4% were Black and 6.4% were Latinx.

One of the key factors: advertising, media and tech companies aren’t holding their managers accountable, per the findings. While AMT companies have done a better job of setting DEI goals 54.2% are doing so, but 0% are linking manager performance measures and compensation to those goals.

Linking performance measures and compensation “is something that could be done that is no cost, scalable and has high impact,” says Lynn Branigan, president and chief executive officer of She Runs It and co-founder of the #Inclusive100.

Agency, media and tech CEOs fail to express support, continuously

Voicing support for greater diversity and inclusion starts at the top, but far fewer CEOs in the advertising, media and tech arena do so. Nearly 82% of diversity best practice (DBP) companies have CEOs that regularly express support, compared to only 12.5% at AMT companies.

“CEOs in our industry aren't making those public declarations of support for diversity nearly as much as index companies,” says Branigan. “We also find that the CMO is critically important in our industry. The CEO influences culture, but the CMO can influence vendor options. We've been trying to influence CMOs to participate in #Inclusive100, so that they can tell their marketing, media and ad tech vendors that this is important.”

Another leadership area that needs improvement is making certain that mentoring programs are diverse. AMT companies do offer formal mentoring programs, but only 12.5% of them monitor the gender, ethnicity, and race of the participants.

Watson points out that the #Inclusive100 “is not about shaming, but it‘s more of an MRI analysis. If you do this assessment and invest in it, you will absolutely know where your problem areas. Then you can decide, as an organization, where you want to invest resources in to make measurable change.”

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