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Marketing Agency Culture Diversity and Inclusion

IPA Agency Census: Covid-19 hits women as adland falls short on diversity goals

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By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

March 19, 2021 | 7 min read

The Institute for the Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has laid out the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK advertising agencies, revealing an overall decline in staff numbers with women, the old and the young hit hardest.

IPA Agency Census: women hit hard by Covid-19 as adland falls short on diversity goals

IPA Agency Census: women hit hard by Covid-19 as adland falls short on diversity goals

The figures, drawn from 132 UK ad agencies, also revealed an uptick in the number of employees from non-white backgrounds employed in adland. However, the data showed an ethnicity pay gap and a failure from ad agencies to meet the 2020 diversity targets set four years ago by the IPA.

The Drum breaks down the data below.

Covid-19 has seriously impacted agency employment levels

  • Staff numbers at UK agencies have been seriously impacted by Covid-19. Overall, IPA members saw headcounts fall 10.8% from 24,866 in 2019 to 22,188 in 2020.

  • In creative and other media non-media agencies numbers fell by 9.0% from 13,509 in 2019 to 12,298 in 2020, while the number of employees in media agencies fell by 12.1% from 11,357 to 9,980, showing a disparity between traditional ad shops and their media counterparts.

  • Agencies said just over a quarter (25.3%) of employee departures came as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This figure was higher in creative and other non-media at 30.6% than in their media agency counterparts at 19.6%.

Women, the elderly and the young have been hit hardest…

  • The number of males employed in member agencies fell by 8.1% year-on–year from 11,700 to 10,752, while the number of females employed fell by 12.8% from 13,088 to 11,411.

  • The overall number of individuals working in their agencies in a part-time role fell by 23.2% to 1,240 from the 1,615 recorded in 2019. The number of females in a part-time role fell by 24.5% from 1,373 to 1,037, while the number of males in a part-time role fell by 15.1% from 238 to 202.

  • In addition to this, the number of women in C-suite positions fell from 34.0% in 2019 to 32.4%. In creative and other non-media agencies, this figure was 32.1%, down from 33.2% in 2019, while in their media agency counterparts it was slightly higher at 32.8%, down from 35.8% in 2019.

...young people and older staff were also affected

  • The number of those aged under 25 employed in member agencies declined by 29.4% from the 4,592 recorded in 2019 to 3,243 in 2020. The 1,349 departures accounted for more than 50% of the total decline in employee numbers (2,678).

  • While the numbers of employees over 60 in the industry are comparatively smaller, this age bracket also saw a significant fall of 22.1% from 240 to 187 year-on-year.

  • The average employee age in a media agency is 32 years old, compared to an average of 36.4 years in creative and other non-media agencies.

The level of ethnic diversity in member agencies has increased

  • Following on from commitments ringing loud across the industry to tackle ethnic inequality, the number of employees from a non-white background is now estimated at 15.3%, up from the 13.7% recorded in 2019.

  • Each of the seniority bands used in the survey have year-on-year increases in non-white representation with numbers highest at junior levels at 21.9% (up from 17.7% in 2019).

  • At the C-Suite level (which comprises jobs like chair, chief executive and managing director) 6.4% of roles are now occupied by individuals from a non-white background – up from 4.7% in 2019.

However, the ethnicity pay gap is real

  • For the first time ever, the IPA Agency Census measured pay gaps based on ethnic diversity and gender.

  • Among respondents providing salary breakdowns by seniority and ethnic background, an ethnicity pay gap of 19.5% in favour of those from a white background was recorded.

  • This stands at 16.2% in creative and other non-media agencies and 21.2% in media agencies. At 21.8% the ethnicity pay gap is higher in agencies with more than 200 employees than it is in their smaller counterparts where it stands at 13.6%.

  • On the gender front, a gap of 22.7% in favour of men exists (down slightly from the 24.4% gap recorded in 2019).

  • At 25.8% the gender pay gap is significantly higher in creative and other non-media agencies than it is in media agencies where it stands at 14.3%. At 26.8% the gender pay gap is higher in agencies with up to 200 employees than it is in their larger counterparts where it is 20.9%.

Ultimately, agencies are still failing to hit diversity targets set by the IPA

  • By 2020 the aim was for women in ad agencies to hold 40% of senior positions. Recently, the percentage of females in C-suite positions has fallen from 34.0% in 2019 to 32.4% in 2020.

  • This year, the IPA also wanted at least 15% of people in leadership positions to be from non-white backgrounds. At the C-suite level, 6.4% of roles are currently occupied by individuals from a non-white background, up from the 4.7% in 2019.

  • It also hoped that at least 25% of entry-level recruits should be Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) individuals. In 2020 this level stands at 21.9%, up from 17.7 in 2019.

  • Says IPA president Julian Douglas: “The pandemic has hit all areas of our lives, and sadly but unsurprisingly our jobs, as this latest IPA Census reveals. With the exception of numbers of people from non-white backgrounds increasing in spite of overall numbers falling, the impact of the pandemic has exaggerated some existing negative trends.

  • “Talent is equally distributed, opportunity isn't. Now is the time to turn the industry's good intentions into meaningful actions.”

  • To address and progress the levels of diversity and inclusivity within the agency community, the IPA has a full program in place.

  • Key highlights include the iList, its work with the UK UN Unstereotype Alliance, and a newly published ‘A Future of Fairness’ report; a series of opinions from industry leaders and interspersed with current industry best practice. The free publication supports the new IPA ‘Diversity and Inclusion Essentials’ certificate.

  • This year the IPA has also joined forces with the Advertising Association (AA) and Isba to deliver the first industry-wide (agency, advertiser and media owner) diversity and inclusion staff survey, under a new campaign that launched last week called 'All In'.

Marketing Agency Culture Diversity and Inclusion

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