The hard work on BLM starts now

It's time to make the 'I' in D&I count and ensure that as the proportion of people from an ethnic minority background entering the industry rises, so they are able to shine.

There was a collective sigh of relief when the world learned that Derek Chauvin had been found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. It seemed to many like an open-and-shut case given the shocking footage of the former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on 25 May 2020.

However, justice is rarely done when it comes to police shootings of black people, which is why the mood was also at times celebratory following the Chauvin trial. The verdict, which came just one month before the first anniversary of Floyd’s tragic death, offered a glimmer of hope that change was possible.

The demand for racial justice fuelled by the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the world during that strange locked-down summer of 2020 flowed into every part of public life and, a year later, the ramifications can still be felt. While the much-maligned UK government-commissioned report on racial disparities suggests otherwise, there is now a growing understanding of the effects of white privilege and systemic racism.

How do we quantify the progress made in adland? The IPA census figures for 2020 released in March were a mixed bag. Just 6.4% of agency leaders hail from an ethnic minority background. In 2015, the figure at creative agencies stood at 10.8%. So the organisation’s 2020 target of 15% representation, set five years ago, is further away now than it was then.

Campaign’s School Reports uncovered similarly dismal trends on the leadership front but found signs of green shoots, as at entry level the percentage of ethnic minority recruits had rocketed up, rising from 28.6% in 2019 to 42%.

Now it’s time to make the “I” in D&I count and ensure this new influx not only finds its feet but is able to shine. Looking up at “snowy, white peaks” will hardly inspire this generation to stick around, so diversity at senior levels must be addressed.

Last September, Campaign’s BLM Adland Audit found that only one of more than 40 agencies was able to submit ethnic minority pay gap data. Since then, there has been some movement. When we collected pay gap information again for the School Reports, 33 out of 100 shops were able to supply it. Admittedly, it’s a larger sample but the
direction of travel is clear.

But beyond the figures, there’s a palpable determination to ensure the momentum is maintained. It’s great to see initiatives spring up like Lollipop Mentoring, offering black women in advertising and marketing free access to support. At the other end, in terms of scale, BRiM (Black Representation in Marketing) has just been unveiled, backed by big brands, agencies and platforms such as Unilever, Facebook and PepsiCo, aimed at increasing representation on and off camera.

Launching Saatchi & Saatchi London’s Operation Black Vote film in April, managing director Sarah Jenkins’ description of the last year as one of “accelerated education, engagement and brutally honest conversations as we looked at how we could be better anti-racists in a changing world” will chime with many. This energy will surely not melt away.

So I’m cautiously optimistic that, a year on, we’re at the start of a meaningful journey that Campaign will support every step of the way.

Gemma Charles is deputy editor of Campaign

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