Media agencies now have a gender pay gap, MFA census reveals

The media agency sector has developed a gender pay gap, according to the Media Federation of Australia’s 2021 census.

The gap between the average male and average female full time media agency salary widened from 0% in 2019 to 3% in 2020, but the MFA chalked that up to the concentration of men in SEO, strategy, and creative services roles.

SEO, SEM, and analytics are also the areas with the majority of vacancies, the industry body said, and like-for-like roles in media agencies have achieved pay parity, versus the national 15% pay gap.

The number of women leaders remained the same, the census showed, with women filling 44% of management roles, compared to the average Australian workplace’s result of 32.5%, according to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency. But women are under-represented in management positions; given the industry is 62% female.

Source: MFA. Click to enlarge

The total number of media agency jobs, meanwhile, fell just 5.1% from October 2019 to September 2020, despite COVID-19 leading to a 15% drop in the year’s bookings. It’s the first time in a decade the industry’s population declined – to 3,703 media agency staffers – as the pandemic squeezed budgets and saw ad spend drop by 15%, or $1.1 billion, last year.

Since the census was conducted in September last year, the MFA confirmed it does not yet have data for the September to December period. But in the back half of 2020, the vacancy rate was 4.1%, which the industry body for media agencies said indicates potential recovery this year.


“While we expected media agency population to contract in the wake of COVID-induced redundancies, it’s encouraging to see that at a 5.1% drop we remain in a healthier position than other markets,” said Peter Horgan, the MFA’s chair and the CEO of Omnicom Media Group.

“This was due to our industry pulling together to reduce hours and salaries at the peak of the crisis in a bid to save as many jobs as possible. It’s clear this approach worked. Even better, the vacancy rate indicates we’re on the path to regain the majority of those lost jobs. Our industry focus remains on retention of talent and protecting our people.”

Source: MFA. Click to enlarge

The organisation set up MFA Support to help media agency professionals who lost their jobs last year, as many agencies and holding groups resorted to redundancy rounds and pay cuts. Of those registered with the program, 70% are now re-employed.

COVID-19’s impact on the economy and job market saw fewer people switch companies, with staff turnover down by 3.9% and regrettable loss sitting at 23.3% and non-regrettable loss at 9%. The previous year, it was 27.2%. The average level of experience also increased to 8.7 years (up from 8.1), with 28% of staffers at media agencies having more than 11 years’ experience. The average tenure at an agency is 3.8 years (versus 3.4 in 2019).

The MFA’s chief executive, Sophie Madden, added that despite recording the first population drop in over a decade, “other indicators of the health of our industry remained positive, including female representation in senior ranks, greater levels of experience and longer tenure”.

“As a snapshot of the health of media agencies, the 2021 Census indicates that we’re well positioned to rebound and grow over 2021.”


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