Are we all in the same boat?

Carl Brady, Director The Freethinking Group


Over the last year or so there has been a palpable shift within our industry. One that acknowledges our industry is not immune to wider societal inadequacies regarding gender and racial discrimination, diversity and inclusion.  In March this year the Advertising Association, ISBA, the IPA and Kantar joined forces to create the largest ever study of our industry’s workforce – the ‘All In’ census. It addressed a variety of fundamental issues to show the true colours of our industry. More than 16,000 advertising professionals took part in the census, a great indication that Adland is serious about tackling the systemic inequity that currently exists.


The results of the census were shared earlier today at the ‘All In’ summit. It was a mixed bag of results and in some cases far more positive than I feared, specifically regarding LGBTQ+ representation in our industry, which stood at 10%, more than 3 times higher than that of the wider UK population (3%).

The more worrying results were specifically focussed in the area of Black talent. Shockingly, the census highlighted there is just 1% of Black talent in C-suite positions. Furthermore, 32% of Black people in the industry are likely to leave due to a lack of inclusion. Similarly, 32% of Muslims would leave for the same reason. However, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise given the level of discrimination marginalised groups in the industry experience. 22% of Black people and 15% of Asian people have experienced racial discrimination according to the census. This is simply unacceptable.


The gender pay gap continues to be a problem, but this won’t change quickly. While senior roles continue to be dominated by middle aged white men, shifting the dial in this space remains an ongoing challenge. A challenge as an agency we are not immune to. A further challenge is to improve not just the representation of disabled talent, but to improve the experience disabled talent has in our industry. The census shows that we massively under-represent, with only 9% of the industry identifying as disabled, vs. 20% of the UK working population.


As part of the ‘All In’ action plan, 3 areas have been earmarked to focus on. Ultimately the aim is to radically improve the experience and representation of black talent, disabled talent and those from a working-class background. At Republic of Media we are committed to supporting all facets of this plan, by addressing these areas as a bare minimum. Despite strong results in the recent Campaign School report regarding BAME and female representation, our agency had 0 BAME entry level recruits last year. We won’t be the only ones.


There is a long way to go and a lot of work to do. However, for me the most crucial message of the ‘All In’ summit, is that as an industry, we all play a role in this. We’re all in the same boat and hopefully we’re all rowing in the same direction. In the direction towards equal access, equal opportunity and genuine representation, creating an industry where everyone feels they belong. An industry built on inclusivity.


The ‘All In’ action plan marks a significant step towards this, but it’s just the first step. We need to keep listening, learning and understanding, and by the next census in 2 years’ time, hopefully our industry will be a leader in the wider commitment to positive change.