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Work & Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion Census

Debut DEI census details progress & pain for minorities in marketing


By John Glenday, Reporter

October 18, 2021 | 4 min read

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has painted a mixed picture on progress toward equality in marketing with the release of its first global diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) census.


The global marketing industry still has a mountain to climb to end discrimination

Discrimination hasn’t gone away

  • The census shows that the global marketing industry still has a mountain to climb to end discrimination based on age and family status, with 27% agreeing that their employer does not treat everyone fairly based on status or age.

  • As a consequence, 36% agreed that age is a hindrance to career progression.

  • Marketing as a sector outperforms the low baseline set by other categories, with a 64% rating on the inclusion index, ahead of the next highest-rated sector (health and pharmaceuticals) on 60%.

A worrying gender divide

  • When quizzed on a sense of belonging, discrimination and negative behavior men (69%) scored significantly higher than their female counterparts (61%).

  • Meanwhile, 40% of women attributed their family status as a block on climbing the employment ladder.

  • This reflects the fact that women and minorities have notably poorer experiences than their male colleagues, primarily as a result of a gender pay gap, which is worst among new recruits standing at 13% in the US and 20% in Canada.

Ethnic minorities fare no better

  • Across the US 17% of ethnic minority marketers report facing discrimination based on their racial background.

  • This feeds through to an identical percentage seeking an exit route from their present employment as a consequence of a lack of inclusivity.

  • Globally the Netherlands was the best performing nation on this issue, with 9% saying they would seek new employment within the industry.

Grounds for optimism

  • Amid this bleak picture, there are grounds for optimism, with 60% of global respondents agreeing that their company is working to become more inclusive, rising to 83% in the US.

  • Similar variations were reported in regards to a ‘sense of belonging,’ with 68% feeling close ties to their employer on average internationally, although this again hides regional variations from a high of 76% in Sweden to just 53% in the bottom-ranked nation.

  • It must be stressed, however, that responses varied between groups, with a 66% average in the US masking a peak response rate of 71% among white respondents, dropping to 59% among ethnic minorities.


  • The census was conducted by WFA in collaboration with EACA and Voxcomm, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week, Effies, GWI, Campaign, IAA and research firm Kantar.

  • WFA chief executive officer Stephen Loerke said: “There are significant minorities in all countries saying they witness negative behaviors and discrimination on account of their age, family status, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, mental health, sexuality ... such that one in seven considers leaving the industry.

  • “No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and we now know where progress must be made. The onus on us all now is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive – and to measure our common progress in a second wave in the spring of 2023.”

  • Findings are based on over 10,000 responses from 27 markets to an online survey conducted between June and July.

  • The census follows publication of a diversity guide by the WFA designed to eliminate creative bias among brands and agencies.

Work & Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion Census

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