Despite all the talk, advertising’s gender pay gap persists

This year’s gender pay gap figures are now public, and it won’t surprise anyone that progress has been slow.

It’s disappointing, especially when there seem to be more high profile women running the industry. Annette King (below) is CEO of Publicis Groupe UK; Karen Blackett is WPP UK country manager; and Mel Edwards is global CEO of Wunderman, which appears to be the jewel in WPP’s crown at the moment.

Over at Omnicom there are four female CEOs: Sarah Douglas at AMV BBDO, Tammy Einav at adam&eveDDB, Sara Tate at TBWA, and Katie Lee at Lucky Generals.

But their presence doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on pay. At AMV the median gap is a whopping 31.8 per cent (down from 37.5 per cent last year), which means that for every £1 a man earns at the agency, a woman earns just 68 pence. At adam&eveDDB the gap is 27 per cent (down from 34.2 per cent).

Credit to Saatchi & Saatchi, which has maintained a 7.7 per cent pay gap — and that can’t all be down to chairwoman Kate Stanners’ salary.

Most of the agencies that have reported (it’s only compulsory if you have 250 or more employees) have a pay gap of around 25 per cent, compared to a nationwide average of 10 per cent.

JWT, which last year was shamed for having the industry’s biggest pay gap at 44.7 per cent, has reduced it to 38.3 per cent. But this is all academic as its macho culture should be diluted by Wunderman next year, which hasn’t reported so far but has a strong female leadership.

Annette King said in a statement: “The simple truth is that we are on a journey, there will always be room for improvement and it’s essential we talk, review and redress how we are going to embrace a better and more transformative workplace.”

The gender pay gap figures are a crude tool, and while it’s important to be transparent, it doesn’t give the whole picture. EasyJet has seen its pay gap worsen from 45.5 per cent to 47.9 per cent, but they say it’s because they have hired lots of junior female pilots. In time, those women should be some of the highest earners at the airline and help redress the balance.

Alarmingly, one bank told Channel 4 News that they had deliberately hired fewer women at entry level in the last year, because they didn’t want to negative impact on their gender pay gap.

It’s interesting how many of the top 20 ad agencies fall below the 250 threshold. New rankings (based on agency billings) are due out next week, but going by last year’s top 20, Leo Burnett managed to be the sixth largest agency while staying under 250 people. After Saatchi & Saatchi at number 11, JWT is the only agency to reach the 250 threshold.

That means TBWA, Mother, Y&R, Wieden + Kennedy, Krow and The & Partnership have all been running lean operations. None of the The & Partnership’s companies employs more than 250 people, but the group reported a salary differential of one per cent, and its senior management team is made up of 46 per cent women.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.