IPA census reveals drop in female leaders and ethnic minorities

Cindy Gallop: ad industry is an 'autocracy that is actively excluding women and people of colour'. (Credit: Bronac McNeill)
Cindy Gallop: ad industry is an 'autocracy that is actively excluding women and people of colour'. (Credit: Bronac McNeill)

Despite all the attention the issue has received in the past year, the percentage of female leaders in advertising is dropping, as is the number of non-white employees.

According to the IPA census, although the number of employees at IPA member agencies has increased by 6.6% to 25,234 people, the balance of female leaders and non-white employees is declining. 

The census found that women now hold only 30.5% of executive management positions, down from 33.1% in 2015. This represents a drop across all senior leadership posts. Women in top roles (chair/chief executive/managing director) account for 25.5%, down from 27.3%. In other executive management positions, women now hold exactly a third of the posts, down from 37.6%.

In terms of racial diversity, only 12% of those employed by IPA member agencies are not white

Diversity champion and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, Cindy Gallop expressed weariness at adland’s continued lack of action.

"At the top of our industry is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys. They have zero interest in breaking that loop and changing anything, because the system is working just fine for them as it currently is," said Gallop, a point she has made on several occasions.

While the industry may have to talk diversity, as it is the buzzword of the moment, they have no desire to change, she added. "Secretly, deep down inside, they believe that white men are best at doing great work (as witness every single announcement Campaign has made of every new shop starting up in the UK right up to yesterday with a white guy line-up/duo heading it up)."

The industry, she concluded, is not a meritocracy. "It's an autocracy that is actively excluding women and people of colour."

In an earlier study, IPA highlighted these same BAME and gender diversity figures, in an attempt to throw light on the problem. 

Karen Blackett, the chairwoman of MediaCom, stressed that actions speak louder than words when trying to encourage a more diverse advertising industry.

"The latest statistics are disappointing, especially given the dominance of the industry being based in multicultural London, and the proportion of the industry that is female at entry level," Blackett said. "However, the census included a far greater number of agencies in 2016 when compared to the previous year and I can sense the appetite and passion for the industry to change."

Cilia Snowball, group chairman and group chief executive of AMV BBDO, found the results of the census disturbing and urged the industry to continue making the issue a priority. "It's disturbing that we have seen slippage after building such strong positive momentum over the last few years. We have to keep resolute focus on the issue and arrest and reverse this decline," she said. "Hopefully it is a blip not a trend. We cannot be complacent."

Tom Knox, IPA president, said at the time that while 2016 will be remembered as a year when the issue of diversity rose to the top of the agenda, gender parity targets won't be achieved without putting these thoughts into action.

"I would therefore urge all agencies to check out the IPA’s diversity hub for simple, immediate ways to take those all important first steps to improving industry diversity."

Other findings

The number of people employed in creative and other non-media agencies has increased by 6.9% to 15,800. Media agencies too have grown in employee headcount by 6.2% to 9,434.

The census also found that more individuals are going part-time, up 8% from 2015, but fewer are working from home on a regular basis, a drop of 35%.

Temps and freelancers are also on the decline, from 2,511 in 2015 to 1,727 in 2016.

Agency turnover is on the rise with the average tenure of permanent employees at just under three years, down from 39.2 months in 2015.

"We have a lot more work to do to encourage greater gender and BAME [Black, Asian, minority ethnic] parity within the industry,’ said Paul Bainsfair, IPA director general. "Furthermore, with competition from other industries, it is more important than ever that we are front of mind for those considering their career choices and that we reach and attract as diverse an audience as possible."

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