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Advertising Association Race The Future of Work

Over half of mothers in advertising say careers damaged by taking parental leave


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

May 11, 2023 | 6 min read

Annual tell-all advertising study, the All In Census, reveals how the industry is making progress (or stalling) on diversity and workplace pledges.

A pregnant person

The latest All In census has been released / Unsplash

The All In Census, carried out by Kantar and advertising think tank Credos, surveyed almost 19,000 advertising and marketers in the UK. Staff at agencies, publishers, broadcasters, brands, tech companies were included in the sample.

It was established in 2021 by the Advertising Association, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba), to create a more inclusive industry for marketing workers. It has a habit of showing how the advertising industry is falling short of its staff.

First, 55% of women who had taken parental leave in the last five years believe that choosing to do so damaged their careers. In addition, almost a third of women – 29% – said they felt their gender had held their careers back, compared to less than 15% of men.

Ali Hanan, founder and chief executive officer of Creative Equals, said: “The industry still has a mountain to climb when it comes to building truly inclusive workplaces.“

“The data suggests that career gaps, particularly parental leave for women, are still riddled with judgement. Deeply embedded misconceptions and falsehoods have led generation upon generation of business leaders to believe women, in particular, lose their skillset, their mind and their experience when they take a break to care for children. In reality, the notion that womens’ skills become rusty is one that serves only the agenda of those who are being exclusionary. I urge agency leaders to see CV gaps not as a red flag, or as a basis for you to pass judgement, but instead as a gift.“

The census also found that the demographics of the advertising and marketing industry out of alignment with modern Britain on parameters such as race, age, class and disability.

A mere 20% of the study’s respondents said they came from a working-class background, compared with an estimated 40% of the wider British working population. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, compared with 8% of Brits, 19% of those working in advertising and marketing attended a private school.

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Though reports of discrimination or workplace bullying have fallen since the last All In Census, released in 2021, the Census found that a third of Black people working in the industry still planned on leaving, due to a lack of inclusion among employers – or outright discrimination in the workplace. 10% of respondents experienced racial discrimination personally, with Black and Asian respondents more likely to experience discrimination.

Abi Adamson, founder and diversity, equity and inclusion director of The Diversity Partnership, said that “as a Black woman, the 2023 All in Census data does not surprise me - the industry as a whole has long catered to the white majority and has largely failed to include underrepresented groups at all levels.

“Attempts at inclusivity have often been lazy and baseless. It is crystal clear that agencies will lose diverse talent if they do not commit to the deep work needed to make change happen. It is the responsibility of leaders to ensure there is a zero-tolerance approach towards discrimination - no one should be mistreated or bullied for being their authentic self.“

Exhaustion with the industry’s working practice and life balance had largely remained the same since the last Census in 2022; though respondents indicating a “sense of belonging” toward their work increased to 71%, 20% said they were likely to find a new job within the next year. Poor work-life balance was one of the key factors driving that attitude, the survey found.

Notably, a third said they were affected by stress, with 15% tracing anxiety or stress directly to their work. Furthermore, the average number of days a week respondents said they’d be happy to spend in the office (1.9) was lower than the average amount of days they were being asked to (2.2).

The survey also found that age discrimination was higher in the industry than in the rest of working Britain; 12% of respondents aged 55-64 said they had been personally discriminated against because of their age. Furthermore, one in four female respondents said they wouldn’t approach their manager to discuss symptoms of menopause.

And finally, on disability, 11% of all respondents and 8% of C-suite respondents are disabled based on the Equality Act 2010 definition. That’s significantly lower than the 14% average in the UK.

Kathryn Jacob, chair of the All In Working Group, said: “This second All In Census provides us with an even richer set of data to understand where we need to focus efforts to make progress.

“The All In team and the many All In Champion organizations are committed to taking these latest results and using them to help drive forward to achieve a fully inclusive workplace for everyone who works in our industry.”

Advertising Association Race The Future of Work

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