Diversity: brands are demanding agencies change. So what now?
A view from Ali Hanan

Diversity: brands are demanding agencies change. So what now?

Three steps agencies can take today to boost diversity. By Ali Hanan, the founder of Creative Equals.

Trends start in threes.

Over the last couple of weeks, three major brands – HP (once part of Hewlett Packard), General Mills and Verzion – have publically demanded their ad agencies put diversity at the core of their business objectives.

The implications for agencies are enormous. Agencies of HP Inc., for example, have been given just 30 days to submit their figures and an ‘action plan, showing how they will increase real diversity in the future. The fact is 50% of HP Inc's products are bought by women, so, for them, it's a case of ensuring creative teams reflects who buys their products.

As Diego Scotti, chief marketing officer of Verizon, said in the New York Times recently, "We’re still in a very male-dominated and non-diverse industry.

"In order for us to create work that’s more connected with the consumer, it needs to come from a deeper connection to what’s going on in society and what’s going on in culture."

HP Inc, Verzion, General Mills, Creative Equals salutes you.

Here comes the but. Changing what has been the status quo for decades won’t happen overnight, It will take time, investment and commitment.

Our research shows just 14% of creative directors in London are female (worldwide this figure is 11%). The WACL – a club for the most senior women in the business – has just seven creative leaders on its membership list.

So as brands start demanding 50/50 creative departments, we are receiving emails every day, asking for female creative directors, like we have a secret pipeline of talent. The fact is these talents are very thin on the ground. That’s why we’re launching our Creative Equals-certified recruitment service later this week to place diverse talent.

So what can agencies do to be part of the solution?

Here are three things to do today.

1. Invest in training and mentoring your junior female talent?

Junior female creatives are the group who need the most support (but get the least allocation of the training budget). Creative Equals has been training more than 300 women this quarter for ‘affordable’ rates. Our classes like ‘Present Like a Pro’ and ‘Be Resilient: How to Thrive’, sell out in hours, while our craft classes don't. That tells a story.

Female creatives are confident they have the skills. What they find difficult is having their voice heard at the creative table.

2. Promote rising stars on their potential

Research from LeanIn Org shows women are 15% less likely than their male counterparts to get promoted. And, with so few female CDs in the talent pool, we have to start promoting and hiring women based on their potential to a job.

Women – and their employers – will wait till they tick every box before they apply (or are promoted) for a job. Push them up the ladder - and give the briefs, mentors and award opportunities they need to get there.

3. Diversity is everyone’s issue, not just HR’s

Along the Creative Equals journey, we have met many HR leaders (who are often the only women on an all-male management team), tasked with sorting out diversity. A second LeanIn Org study shows that while companies say it is a top priority, just a third of employers say it’s a priority for their line manager.

The fact is everyone – from the CEO to in-house recruiters – has to have diversity in mind every day, on every brief, with every hire.

Diversity in adland won’t be solved overnight. Gender– and ethnicity equally - will take years of working: one agency, one talent at a time, to make sure talent is trained and mentored all the way to the top. One of Creative Equals’ KPIs for 2017 is to double the number of diverse creative directors in London. But we need the support of the industry to help us drive real, lasting change.

So far Cannes Lion, D&AD, the IPA, BIMA, Creative Circle, The Dots, SheSays, Creative Social, and Stripes (our partners championing ethnicity) are future-proofing the industry with us as well as our agency partners (R/GA, AnalogFolk, Wunderman, DigitasLBi, Mr President, CP + B, and more.

Diversity isn’t just a trend for today. It’s our future.

Ali Hanan is the founder of Creative Equals, a movement to encourage greater gender diversity in the creative industry. To join, contact hello@creativeequals.org.