UK advertising’s non-white staff grew 20% last year, but they’re paid 20% less

The latest census by the Institute for the Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) reveals some positive trends in diversity across adland, but progress remains slow as gender pay gap barely improves and ethnic pay gap grows.

The 2021 Agency Census comprises 102 responses from the IPA’s 132 member agencies. Released today (March 31), it outlines how overall staff numbers within IPA member agencies stabilized in 2021, in comparison with the considerable drop in numbers measured in the 2020 Agency Census.

It also highlights the shift towards hybrid working as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, despite some encouraging improvement in diversity in the last year, significant ethnic and gender pay gaps remain in place.

The Drum breaks down the data below.

Agency staff numbers have fallen, but less dramatically than at the height of pandemic

  • On September 1, 2021, there were an estimated 22,062 individuals employed in IPA member agencies, down on the 22,188 recorded in 2020. This marginal decline represents a stabilization in the size of the employed base after the sharp decline of 10.8% in 2020 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Broken down, the number of employees in creative and other non-media agencies fell marginally from an estimated 12,298 in 2020 to 12,278 in 2021, while the number of employees in media agencies fell from an estimated 9,890 in 2020 to 9,784 in 2021.

  • The ‘great resignation’ appears to be stabilizing too, with staff turnover at 26% – on par with 2020.

  • And in positive news, redundancies accounted for 20% of employee departures, down from 28% in 2020.

  • Overall number of male employees fell from an estimated 10,752 in 2020 to 10,403 in 2021, while the number of female employees increased from an estimated 11,411 in 2020 to 11,612 in 2021.

However, the number of part-time and freelance workers has increased massively

  • In addition to payroll employees, an estimated 1,913 temporary workers and freelancers are engaged by IPA member agencies, which is more than double the 889 reported in 2020.

  • There has also been a significant increase in the number of interns engaged by member agencies, up from an estimated 45 in 2020 to 160 in 2021.

  • The number of first-year trainees employed by member agencies increased slightly from an estimated 1,146 in 2020 to 1,150 in 2021, while the number of apprentices employed fell marginally from an estimated 156 in 2020 to 150 in 2021.

Women are bearing the brunt as gender pay gap barely improves

  • The number of women in a part-time role increased to an estimated 1,242 from the 1,037 reported in 2020, while the number of male part-time employees increased from an estimated 202 in 2020 to an estimated 269 in 2021.

  • This could in part account for the gender pay gap, which has barely improved in the last year. Among those IPA member agencies providing salary breakdowns by gender and seniority, a pay gap of 23.3% in favor of men exists, compared with the 22.7% recorded in 2020.

The number of women in C-suite roles has risen (just)

  • Women occupied 33.5% of C-suite roles, up marginally from the 32.4% recorded in 2020. This figure was slightly higher in creative and non-media agencies, at 33.9% than in media agencies (32.8%).

  • By comparison, 60% of junior and entry-level roles are occupied by women.

  • At 25.8%, the gender pay gap is significantly higher in creative and other non-media agencies than it is in media agencies, where it stands at 18.9%.

Lori Meakin, a member of the WACL’s executive commitee, says of the ongoing disparity: “Any progress is, of course, positive but this pace of change is painfully slow.”

Ethnic diversity is up, but the ethnic pay gap increases

  • The percentage of member agency employees from a non-white background is estimated at 18.3%, which is an almost 20% increase on the 15.3% reported in 2020.

  • Individuals from an Asian or Asian British background account for 7.9% of the employee base, while those from a Black or Black British background account for 4.4% and those from a mixed or multiple ethnic background 4.1%. Those from any other ethnic background account for around 2%.

  • Individuals from a non-white background occupy 27.1% of entry- and junior-level roles, exceeding the IPA target of 25% for the first time.

  • Among those member agencies providing salary breakdowns by ethnicity and seniority, a pay gap of 21.2% in favor of white employees exists, which is an increase on the 19.5% reported in 2020.

  • At 23.4%, the difference is higher in media agencies than it is in creative and other non-media agencies where it stands at 15.3%.

As Dax Callner, strategy director at Smyle, points out: “There is a huge issue around agency leadership, with only a slight increase in the percentage of individuals from a non-white background accounting for senior roles compared with the 2020 figures.

“This must be addressed. We believe any agency make-up should reflect the communities in which the agency is based and operates in. And this isn’t just about leadership, it should apply to all employees, to the entire organization. As an example, if London is 40% BAME, agencies in London should reflect this across all their employees, including those in positions of leadership.“

The WACL’s Meakin continues: “When we consider that companies with more gender and ethnic diversity in their leadership teams tend to display above-average profitability and that women generally over-index in the leadership qualities proven most effective, the fact that men still outnumber women – and particularly women of color – so disproportionately at senior levels across our industry isn’t just bad for women, it’s bad for business.”

Commenting on the findings of the census, Paul Bainsfair, director-general of the IPA, says: “There are some welcome figures within this year’s Census findings, particularly regarding the increase in the ethnic diversity of our business. I have no doubt that these improvements have been fueled by some fantastic initiatives our industry has embraced over the past couple of years, and we mustn’t lose momentum here.

“It is also interesting to see the impact that the pandemic has had on our agency working models. With flexible working considered as one of the core opportunities for improving diversity, it is positive news that over 85% of our agencies are adopting hybrid working models and we look forward to charting the impact of this in our future censuses.“

The vast majority of agencies are adopting hybrid working models post the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Over 85% of agencies indicated that, following Covid-19, they would be adopting a hybrid approach to working.

  • Just over a third of agencies (35%) indicated that they would be adopting a two-days remote/three-days office model for their workers, while 31.1% indicated that they would be adopting a three-days remote/two-days office model and 14.6% a fully flexible approach.

  • In line with the gender pay gap findings, the census reveals that compressed hours are most likely to be used by women (86.8%), while job sharing and flexitime show a relatively even gender split.

As Callner adds: “Hybrid isn’t just about operating a flexible workplace. It means we have more access to a diverse pool of talent and happier staff too, so it plays an important part in promoting diversity and mental wellbeing.”

Bainsford concludes: “Despite these areas of positivity, with talent as our industry’s most valuable resource, there is, of course, more to be done.”

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