IPA 2020 census shows employee numbers down 11 per cent, with women, the old and the young hit hardest

We all know the pandemic’s impact on the advertising industry has been tough, and the IPA 2020 census figures are here to prove it. Staff numbers have fallen by 10.8 per cent to 22,188 in 2020, with media agencies (down 12.1 per cent to 9,980) hit hardest.

Only 25.3 per cent of employee departures were blamed directly on the Covid-19 pandemic, although this rose to 30.6 per cent in creative and other non-media agencies.

The census also shows that the industry falls way short of the IPA’s 2020 diversity targets, set back in 2016 by the then president, Tom Knox.

Knox’s (modest) goal was for senior positions to be filled 40 per cent by women and 15 per cent people from a non-white background; with 25 per cent of entry level jobs filled by people from a non-white backgrounds.

In reality, 32.4 per cent of the c-suite are women; 6.4 per cent of the c-suite are non-white; and 21.9 per cent of entry level employees are non-white.

As if we needed any more proof that women have been hit hardest by the pandemic, the number of women in member agencies fell by 12.8 per cent in 2020, while men were down by 8.1 per cent. In the boardroom, 32.4 per cent of c-suite positions were held by women, down from 34 per cent the previous year.

The news isn’t quite as bleak for ethnic diversity. Employees from a non-white background make up 15.3 per cent of employees, up from 13.7 per cent in 2019. The positive change is continuing at all levels, with c-suite posts up to 6.4 per cent, from 4.7 per cent last year. At junior levels, it’s 21.9 per cent, up from 17.7 per cent.

Age also has an influence on your ability to keep your job. More than 50 per cent of people who left their jobs last year were under 25. The number of over 60s fell by 22.1 per cent, from an already low base of 240 down to 187 in total.

The gender pay gap managed to narrow slightly from 24.4 per cent to 22.7 per cent. It’s much worse in creative agencies (25.8 per cent), than media agencies (14.3 per cent) and agencies of more than 200 people do better in this area.

The opposite is true with the ethnicity pay gap, where smaller agencies perform better (13.6 per cent) than larger agencies (21.8 per cent). Overall the ethnicity pay gap is 19.5 per cent.

Julian Douglas, the IPA’s new president, said: “The pandemic has exaggerated some existing negative trends. Talent is equally distributed, opportunity isn’t. Now is the time to turn the industry’s good intentions into meaningful actions. The awareness is here, the resources and best practice examples are available, it is up to all of us to put our words into action.”

Leila Siddiqi, IPA associate director, diversity, said: “We must take heart that while the numbers haven’t changed as much as we had hoped, some attitudes have. Right now we have the unique opportunity to harness this new understanding by adjusting our ways of working and creating a new culture, fit for the current times. The roadmap laid out in our recent publication, A Future of Fairness, is a good place to start.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe 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.

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