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The State of Diversity in Advertising and Technology

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DATE: September 15, 2021

It’s useful to have an idea of what diversity in the workplace looks like right now – without this, any initiatives or plans can feel aimless or hopeless. With an idea of how your business measures up, and what the state of the industry is, you can map out goals to position yourself as a leader in diversity.

Part of the research that took place to try and understand what diversity stats looked like in the Advertising, Creative, and Technology sectors (for the Improving Diversity in the Workplace guide by The Diversity Partnership X Aquent) meant trawling the internet for publicly accessible records specific to the United Kingdom. It's relatively simple to find UK government census information on gender, ethnicity or disability status, but it's rarely specific enough, often presented in different formats year-on-year, and definitely not easily accessible all in one place.

In fact, if you're looking for some indication of how diverse any particular sector is for any or all protected characteristics you're going to seriously struggle. This is likely because businesses in the UK don't currently have any obligation to share this information publicly. The only exception is a handful that either volunteer this data in a survey or otherwise sign a charter ensuring business transparency.

It’s worth noting that there is currently a new Equal Pay (Information and Claims) Bill being reviewed in Parliament which will – as it currently exists – make it a legal requirement for businesses to publish ethnicity data alongside current gender pay gap information.

Countless downloads of PDFs and Excel spreadsheets, a fair few hours Googling, and a Freedom of Information request later – we'd gathered a disappointingly small amount of useful data. However, the something we did find is better than nothing at all, and it paints a picture of (slow) progress.

Below is the progress that the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has published in various reports with data from 2016 to 2020, revealing some insight into gender and racial diversity in the UK advertising industry.

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As you can see, progress is being made – which is positive! Women makeup over 50% of those employed, and people of colour make up 15.3% of those employed. However the rate of development is slow – particularly in gender and ethnicity representation in leadership, which makes pushing for diversity all the more important. By the IPA’s own targets, set in 2016, the standard the advertising industry should be working towards is 40% of women in senior positions, and at least 15% of leadership positions to be held by people from non-white backgrounds.

We also collated data from a variety of national surveys and government reports published over the last 5 years to give some indication of what disability looks like in the UK workplace at the moment. Recent figures (below) indicate that more than half of those working with a disability are in “Administrative and Secretarial occupations”, “Associate professional & technical occupations”, “Professional occupations”, or are “Managers, directors and senior officials” (and therefore are working in industries similar to Advertising, Creative or Technology). Also promising is the data that shows a steady increase in the percentage of these occupations being filled by workers with a disability, suggesting that fair and equal representation for those with disabilities is improving in these types of roles.

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At the end of the day, the figures presented here are only a rough indication of three protected characteristics but what they show is enough to give you some idea of where your business stands in comparison.

If you want to find out more about improving diversity in the workplace, including guidance on the complex topic of diversity and recruitment, click here get your free copy of A Best Practice Guide on Improving Diversity in the Workplace by The Diversity Partnership X Aquent.