There’s no doubt Adland has turned the corner when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Across the sector, companies are, with varying levels of authenticity, applying a greater focus and a deeper level of scrutiny than ever before to this important issue.
This is, of course, to be applauded. If recent developments are anything to go by, it’s clear we’re just scratching the surface of what is a huge – and hugely important – subject area. But there is equally no doubt that, despite the positive intentions of many schemes and initiatives designed to tackle diversity, in so many cases they fall completely flat.
I should know. Having worked in a variety of sectors within the media, I have seen more than a few. At best they can make a genuine and lasting difference, but at worst they are inefficient at attracting under-represented groups, stigmatising, and resented by people on both ‘sides’.
Beware of the backlash
Those behind diversity schemes can forget that, in the simplest terms, people will be hired directly or indirectly as a result of the policies put in place. If the reasons for the scheme are not conveyed in a way that people understand, then how can we expect there not be a level of backlash somewhere down the line, and how can we hope for future hires to feel ‘included’ and equal?
As a black woman, there have been times when I have experienced comments in the workplace like "it’s easier for you, because of all of the schemes that you can go for". And comments like that were the very reason I chose to avoid one scheme, along with the fact it was unhelpfully heavy-handed in shoehorning ethnic minorities into lengthy paid work-experience placements.
From good intentions to meaningful action
These are examples of how a lack of understanding and poor execution mean diversity is often greeted with cynicism. So what can we do to improve our approach? How can we ensure good intentions are matched with effective action?
At the7stars, we have assembled a team of people to pull together these strands into a coherent approach that’s less about talk and more about action, and tangible ways of tackling these issues. At every step of way, the whole company has been kept informed of our work and aims, with the weekly company meeting featuring updates on the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of our progress.
Our work began with a review of the agency to understand more about where we stood on the on a diverse range of diversity issues. From a gender and ethnicity perspective, we found our balance was ahead of industry averages. We also found that we were, understandably, pretty London-centric, with only 25% of the agency from outside the capital. We are also skewed quite young, with two –thirds of the agency under the age of 30.
This gave us a solid understanding of the areas to focus our work. In graduate recruitment, for example, we are extending our geographical influence further north while also refocusing the process to make it less dependent on media subjects and also ensuring applicants from all ages are considered.
Removing the barriers
Given the cost of living in London, we have also forged a relationship with property specialists DotDotDot to reduce the barriers to moving to London and provide a route for low-cost accommodation.
Beyond graduates, we are currently reviewing where we source apprentices from, looking to encourage participation from inner London schools; we are developing our knowledge around disability recruitment; and as sponsors of Warwick University’s African & Caribbean Society we are attending networking events to broaden our pool of applicants.
More generally, we have reviewed and enhanced our maternity and paternity packages, and we are bringing in training in January for the people team and hiring managers as part of a push to eliminate the potential for unconscious bias during candidate screening.
Advertising’s reality gap
Findings from the most recent wave of The QT, a quarterly consumer confidence and attitude tracking study conducted by the7stars insight team, give eye-opening evidence of the urgency and importance of this work. It found that the British public are being failed by advertisers when it comes to representing the diversity of life across the UK, with just one in ten of us saying that advertising reflects life where we live.
As such, this is not a one-off project for us. It is part of a continuous effort to ensure that, in both our make-up and our thinking, the7stars is more diverse. We believe that will not only make us a better place to work but will result in better creativity and plans for our clients, and better campaigns that truly resonate with today’s audiences.
Adele Lindsay is a SEO specialist at the7stars
The diversity gap: in numbers
· 56% of respondents agree that the debate around diversity in advertising is more widespread than ever
· Londoners are far more likely to agree that advertising is reflective of life in their region (18%) compared with just 1% of those in the North East
· Younger millennials (those aged 18-24) are more positive about advertising, registering 46% as feeling fairly represented in modern advertising compared to 24% of respondents overall and only 12% of those aged 65 or older
· Two fifths of consumers (42%) feel that brands sometimes exploit diversity events such as LGBT Pride
Source: The QT a quarterly consumer confidence and attitude tracking study conducted by the7stars