The Agency Circle reports mixed industry progress in its annual diversity survey

The industry body for creative agencies, The Agency Circle, has reported an 11% increase in reported workplace discrimination in its second annual diversity survey.

Furthering the increase in discrimination in terms of not receiving a desired outcome or promotion, adland professionals also reported a 9% growth in people not intervening when they see discriminatory acts.

Emily Perret says the findings show “some great movements in the sexual harassment figures”

1,144 people participated in the survey across 26 different agencies across the nation. Participating agencies included Clemenger BBDO, M&C Saatchi, Leo Burnett, The Monkeys, DDB, VCCP, TBWA, Havas, BWM Dentsu, Saatchi & Saatchi, The Core Agency, McCann and AnalogFolk.

Meanwhile, compared to 37% last year, 23% of participants said they had seen a co-worker make discriminatory comments at their workplace “a few times” while 38% responded “never”.

Of the participants 56% were female, 42% male and 78% were caucasian. In relation to gender, 33% of respondents argued the industry does a “mediocre” job when it comes to gender equality, a statistic which remained the same as last year.

Meanwhile 31% said they’d felt “a few times” they had been treated differently from their co-workers because of gender. 60% said they have “never” been treated differently because of their gender.

20% of the industry, do however, feel potentially vulnerable to discrimination as a result of gender, with no one answering they did not feel vulnerable at all.

Despite this, the industry still thinks “agencies used to be more sexist than they are now” with 41% “agreeing totally” with this statement.

Emily Perret, managing director of Clemenger BBDO Sydney and chair of The Agency Circle, said age, ethnicity and diversity is clearly an area the industry needs to focus on.

“People, inside and outside the industry, are quick to focus on gender. The Agency Circle was established to work on diversity in all forms.

“Looking at the survey responses this year, we need to collectively focus on age and ethnic diversity.”

A female respondent, agreed arguing, “there is a lot of conversation about diversity and inclusion, ‘we need more of both’, ‘we need to work harder at it’, ‘we’re committed to change’ but I haven’t seen any positive strategic action at any agency to support this. Without a plan it just won’t happen.”

The Agency Circle reported positive results in relation to sexual harassment as 85% said they had never encountered sexual harassment at their current agency, which compares to last years 68%, while 4% said they had “almost never” experienced this.

Perret added: “The numbers on sexual harassment have all moved in the right direction. And the survey was adjusted to make sure we were collecting data around people’s current employer.”

Meanwhile, compared to last years 51%, 73% of participants responded “never” to the question “I know a woman who has experienced sexual harassment”.

Comparatively, 8% said they “almost never” know a man who has experienced sexual harassment, while 89% responded “never”.

“I’m a white bloke. So I can’t say much from personal experience. But I’ve heard cases of women being touched inappropriately and this being brushed off. Or general “locker-room talk” being ignored because they’re jokes. Granted, we’re a traditional agency. But that doesn’t mean we have to behave like one,” one male aged between 18 and 24 said.

Perret said the area of sexual harassment has seen huge improvements in the creative industry which is a fantastic movement in the right direction.

“There are some great movements in the sexual harassment figures. The perceived discrimination numbers around being ‘included in decision making’ and being ‘treated differently’ are also welcome news. Agencies are also perceived to be less sexist, racist and more tolerant than previously. The other big stat is the improvement in the numbers around the promotions of working mothers. That’s something we’re really proud of.”

Perret labelled awareness was the key trend she saw this year, saying people are much more aware of what they say.

“People are more aware of what they say and the importance of having an informed point of view. Particularly when it comes to sexual harassment.

“Obviously, that’s being driven in part by forces outside our Industry, but it’s good to see less fear from people. Whether it’s talking about their own experiences, or the issues we face more broadly, people are less and less scared to talk about stuff. That can only be a good thing.”


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