Agencies better for gender equality than brands: Exclusive research

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Women are more equal in the agency environment than they are within brands or tech companies, according to Campaign Asia-Pacific and Kantar's inaugural gender diversity study.

Agencies provide a better experience in terms of gender diversity than brands or tech companies, according to Campaign Asia-Pacific and Kantar’s 2017 Gender Diversity study, which was revealed at today's Campaign360 event in Hong Kong. 

Anne Rayner, global head of communications research at Kantar-owned TNS, laid out the inaugural Gender Diversity study in partnership with Campaign Asia-Pacific.

The research found that women still have less access to opportunities. The crucial point, though, is that this is not related to their performance, but perception and unconscious bias.

"If you’re a male leader, you might not see this around you, it might be invisible," she said. "But just because you don’t see this with your own eyes, it doesn’t mean this isn’t felt by the women in your organization."

The research also revealed that 35 percent of women at non-agencies say they spend their time in meetings dominated by men.

"Unconscious bias is a real barrier for women," Rayer emphasized. "Agencies are doing a somewhat better job, but there’s a lot more to go. Good intentions are not enough, we need to be much more interventionist."

The report, which in February surveyed 630 media and marketing professionals—394 women and 236 men—across 21 countries in Asia-Pacific, found that women felt more respected and credible at agencies than brands.

Eighty percent of agency respondents said men and women were equally credible to top management, compared to 62 percent of non-agency respondents. Moreover, 73 percent in agencies said women and men equally respected by top management, versus just 56 percent in non-agency companies.

Agencies are also more than twice as likely to have a female CEO than the other types of companies, the study found—although the numbers in both instances remain low.

Another key finding was that of preconception issues for women in the media and marketing industry. The study found that men feel they are judged more on what they have done—their track record and experience—whereas women feel they are appraised on who they are—their age and gender.

In addition, the research showed that men have access to more opportunities than women in the workplace: 43 percent of women surveyed said they had missed out on opportunities because of their gender, compared to just 16 percent of men surveyed.

Strikingly, given the intensity of the debate around gender diversity in the industry, an enormous 75 percent of men surveyed said gender doesn’t matter anymore in the workplace, while 51 percent of women believe it still does. 

To help address these and many other issues highlighted by the report, both men and women felt the two most important areas to address are development opportunities and flexible working. It is also vital for organizations to have more female leaders in senior positions.

"The study shows that although women aspire to leadership just as much as men, there is still a glass ceiling of unconscious bias firmly in place in our industry," Rayner said. "This means that women are often less respected than men in their workplaces and miss out on opportunities because of their gender. The study also shows that good intentions are not enough to challenge unconscious bias; we need to be more proactive and interventionist to create change."

Today's Campaign360 event is devoting a full day to the gender issue in marketing and communications. Please stay tuned on this website, and on Twitter and Facebook for coverage, including a Facebook Live broadcast at 12:15 pm HK/SG time today.