I pledge to do better on diversity
A view from Rachel Barnes

I pledge to do better on diversity

Let 2018 be the year of doing.

In 2017 we started to move beyond talking about the issues of diversity, inclusivity and equality; actual progress was made as companies realised that inaction was no longer acceptable. Although, looking at the IPA diversity survey of adland, there is still so much more that needs to be done.

The biggest catalyst for change came from a surprising corner: Hollywood, post-Weinstein. In the wake of this, our industry’s own stories have begun emerging, both of sexual harassment and gender bullying – the latter no less destructive and disgusting as an abuse of power.

Cultures where such behaviour has been tolerated, covered up, silenced – including historical cases – have no place in any business from this point on.

Change happens now. And it isn’t just about unearthing those individuals who have chosen to behave in a certain way. It is as much about looking at who you are hiring as your junior execs, as well as what’s communicated by the shape of, and messages coming from, your boardrooms. It’s about diverse teams – yes, that again – and inclusive businesses.

Across all levels, at all agencies surveyed, the IPA found that the proportion of staff from a BAME background is 12.9%, up almost one percentage point in the past year, but still short of the 13.1% of two years ago. There is, however, an indication that long-term behaviour change programmes are having an impact and the entry-level pipeline is getting stronger, with junior executives from a BAME background up from 15% in 2016 to 16.4% in 2017.

It’s a sorry story at the top: only 2% of chair/CEO/MD jobs and 4.7% of C-suite jobs are held by ethnic minorities, with both figures down on the 2016 survey. We are clearly a long way off from having diverse boardrooms.

At Campaign, we strive to reflect people from different backgrounds. While we still face criticism for the white, male faces that often fill many of our pages, we genuinely keep gender representation front and centre. However, where I admit we haven’t done well enough is in our BAME representation.

It would be easy for us to say: "Well, that’s the industry and we’re representative of it in the faces and voices we feature." However, I pledge we will go further this year to bring alternative voices into Campaign, be they BAME, younger people, older people, or people with disabilities – from all corners of our industry.

Several people have told me recently that they need to make improvements in the diversity of economic backgrounds of recruits. One expressed dismay at the fact a few people in his business all went to the same school.

We are at risk of becoming a passion industry for rich kids, warns Blue 449’s Simon Davis (p24), who suggests apprenticeships, travel, cost-of-living supplements and bursaries should all be on the table.

No more needs to be said about why this makes sense, how anonymised CVs will help, or that there is a business case for better reflecting the population – your consumers – within your own workforce. It’s all been said. A lot. These things matter so we keep banging on about them.

But in 2018, do it – just do it. Is it that hard? Recruit different people. Reach out to different organisations, like ThisAbility, BAME 2020 or Creative Equals.

IPA president Sarah Golding says our industry has now gone from benchmarking its diversity to planning how to address it. The talking’s done, the planning is under way, now let’s do the doing.

OK, it might be easy for me to say just do it; I realise this is about long-term, strategic behaviour change. The industry might not be able to change overnight, but, as individuals, we can. Happy 2018 to everyone – I predict a roller coaster.

Rachel Barnes is the UK editor of Campaign. 
@rachelmrbarnes

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