The truth behind the IPA's diversity survey
A view from Ali Hanan

The truth behind the IPA's diversity survey

Why women don't progress and BAME aren't hired in adland, by Creative Equals' founder.

Last week's IPA Diversity Survey laid bare how far the industry is behind where it should be.

The numbers of women moving up to senior leadership has moved by 0.6%. Overall, the BAME figures have moved by 0.7%.

This is despite a year of articles, panels, discussion groups and diversity conferences. For one chief creative officer, the "D-word" even became "boring".

At Creative Equals, we know exactly why these numbers aren’t shifting.  

We see the real data, not just across BAME and gender but disability (almost zero), age, neurodiversity, LGBTQ and all the intersectional data in between. Look for BAME women at senior levels in creative and we believe the numbers run about 1%-2%.

The fact is this: agencies are simply not invested in doing their homework – on themselves.

The IPA’s figure can show one measurement of whom we have. But until we understand why diverse groups aren’t invited in or aren’t succeeding, we won’t shift these figures.

Change starts on every company’s own shop floor.

Yes, change starts with who gets to stand up at the last company meeting, who lands the training budgets, who has a pay rise, who gains a mentor, who is promoted, where people sit, who interviews (and if they have an affinity bias with the candidate), who works overtime, if managers role model flexible working, how sexual harassment is dealt with and all the details in between.  

And here are four things we also know:

1. Unless shop floors are inclusive, diverse staff won’t stay

Newly released research ("We are the reason") an MA Study from Bianca Richards on mothers in advertising, which included the creation of the above campaign, shows 94% of mothers say the advertising industry fails to accommodate their needs. Yet motherhood is just one reason: creative women are 45% less likely to be invited to the pitch table and so far the data shows they receive a fraction of the training their male colleagues. Careers flatline. Diverse talent leaves.

2. The network-cracy prevails

This industry operates on a "network-cracy". Consider this. Many companies have a staff incentivised bonus scheme. Yes, this cuts recruitment costs, but it means many will shop from their own white, middle class networks. Recruiters are also a BAME blocker, limited by the pools they network in. One we met recently said they wouldn’t put forward a candidate unless they could pronounce the name (see the Mohamed vs Adam study). When it comes to progression, internal networks are also built on affinity bias (we promote who agree with us), so with barriers to entry and progression, the numbers will shift at a snail's pace.

3. CEOs, a one-page diversity statement is not enough

Even if a company has a "diversity strategy", there is no set of measurements or an actionable plan to change. We ask: "Do you have a recruitment diversity policy? Whom were your last 10 hires? Your last 10 promotions? Where do your job ads appear? What is your turnover by diversity groups? What were their exit themes? Is your exit themed data by diversity groups reported to the board? Does the board have KPIs liked to diversity?" We help companies put in the right measures (you can’t manage what you don’t measure). Companies need a plan, not a strategy.

4. CEOs are busy – and in 2018 D&I still has zero budget

With decreasing adspend forecasts, rising talent costs and Brexit biting, despite the business case for D&I, it sliding off the board’s agenda or is hot-potato-handed to HR. "Often teams feel the D&I agenda is going to be a resource intensive initiative within teams already stretched to breaking point," says Roxanne Hobbs, The Hobbs Consultancy. Yet, as diversity drives innovation, creativity, staff happiness and profitability, this should be a number one priority to future-proof businesses.

Four ways to move the numbers faster in 2018

  1. Find out who is succeeding in your business – and why

  2. Have an actionable, measureable D&I framework, reported at board level

  3. Invest. Believe the business case. Have a dedicated budget (no, this isn’t "training")

  4. Practice inclusive recruitment and de-bias appraisals

One more. The game-changer.  

If every company rolled up their sleeves, took a long hard look at their policies, practices and process and how they work to drive diversity, and then understood how to unpack the barriers for diverse staff, the IPA’s numbers would shift. Fast.

That’s what our Creative+Media Equality Standard does.  

Ad industry, this is your homework.

Ali Hanan is founder and chief executive of Creative Equals

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