Fewer BAME employees and a widening gender pay gap: IPA Census 2020 makes depressing reading

Despite all the talk — and there’s plenty of that — agencies are still failing horribly at diversity. The latest data, covering 2019, shows that BAME employees make up only 4.7% of c-suite roles, down from 5.5% in 2018.

Overall, 13.7% of agency staff are BAME, down from 13.8% last year. Even at junior levels, the numbers were 17.7%, only marginally up from 16.9% last year. At the highest level of seniority – chair, CEO and MD – ethnic minority representation has doubled from 2% in 2017 to 4.1% in 2019, but MAA readers could probably name the individuals (or possibly individual, depending on how many agencies responded) responsible for this change.

The gender pay gap has also got worse. It currently stands at 24.4% in favour of males, compared to 24.2% in 2018. Media agencies, where the gap is 19.8%, fare better than creative, where it’s 28.1%.

It’s no coincidence that there’s still a strong male bias in the highly paid areas of creative and digital, whereas women are over-represented in HR, finance, account management and new business. Women are also 85% of part time employees, down from 86.8% in 2018.

In 2015, then IPA president Tom Knox set targets for 2020: women should hold 40% of senior positions and BAME staff should hold 15%. Arguably these latest statistics relate to 2019 figures, so there’s still another year to reach the targets, but it’s not looking good.

For women in the c-suite, there’s still a way to go, with only 34% reaching the top ranks, up from 32.7% in 2018 — although it’s better in media agencies, where 39.9% of c-suite are women.

The big network creative agencies are clearly the last bastion of the old boys’ network, and they are dragging down the stats, because in creative agencies of fewer than 200 employees, women have made it to 36.2% of roles.

It’s not great news for the older generation either. Still only 6.3% of employees are aged 50 or over, which hasn’t gone up since last year.

IPA director general, Paul Bainsfair, does his best to put a positive spin on the numbers. He says: “Once again these figures show that while some improvements were noted in some areas in terms of the diversity of our industry, these are marginal at best and too slow in pace. Having said this, we do know that there is an inevitable lag between action and results… the overall trajectory of the major trend data charted within the Census is positive.”

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