While diversity and inclusion may have risen up the corporate agenda over recent years, the time has come to start asking the right questions in order to spark real change.
That’s the view of Beam Suntory vice-president, head of media and WFA global diversity ambassador Jerry Daykin, who wants the industry to appreciate the human stories behind the lack of diverse representation within marketing.
Speaking at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing, he highlighted the experiences of people considering leaving the industry, often because business culture fails to make them feel welcome.
“A lot of that is down to representation. The lack of senior leadership. A lot of people say they come in and it’s not like they are actively discriminated against – maybe they are in some cases – but it’s often you look up at the top and there’s no one who looks like you, sounds like you, comes from your background,” said Daykin.
“It’s quite hard to want to work in an industry like that. Of course, every industry has that challenge, but in marketing it feels more pertinent, because it’s literally our job to understand, represent and talk to consumers.”
The statistics are stark. Nearly a third (32%) of black people working in advertising are likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusivity, according to the Advertising Association’s 2021 All In Census, an opinion shared by 27% of Asian respondents.
Anyone can do inclusive marketing, but you have to have that empathy and willingness to step outside your bubble.
Jerry Daykin, Beam Suntory
Indeed, the WFA’s 2021 global diversity, equity and inclusion census finds one in seven respondents would consider leaving the industry due to a lack of diversity and inclusion. Of the students benefitting from career support via the Brixton Finishing School, one in four love the industry, but want to leave.
Moreover, Marketing Week’s 2022 Career and Salary Survey revealed a gender pay gap within marketing of 12.6%, an ethnicity pay gap of 23.7% and a socio-economic pay gap of 19.1%.
Fellow Festival of Marketing panellist, Brixton Finishing School founder Ally Owen, pointed to the issues around attracting diverse talent in the first place and then persuading them marketing is a career where they can thrive. She described it as “self-sabotage” that the industry makes it so difficult for talent to get in.
“Even though they see about 7,000 ads a day and there’s 45 people on each of those ads, they don’t know we exist as a potential career choice and that’s a lot about the defunding of education. It’s a lot about the fact we traditionally recruited a lot of the same certain type of person,” said Owen.
“It’s important that we tell everybody we exist as a career and we also start dealing with the attainability gap.”
Owen pointed to the “massive” degree penalty being perpetuated by an industry which continues to measure value in terms of further education. This preoccupation with degrees often makes marketing feel like an unattainable career for diverse talent.
She told the story of a marketer, five years into her career at KFC, who had graduated with a student loan of £48,000, a bill now sitting at £53,000 due to interest of 6.3%.
“You wouldn’t give a mortgage to an 18-year-old at 6.3%, so why are we allowing educational debt?” she asked.
“We’re still seeing degrees are what we value people on. We’re not suggesting there aren’t specialised roles where it’s important, but I would like to say most of us learnt our jobs by doing them.”
Wherever someone starts their marketing career they will need upskilling, said Owen, arguing even if they study for a degree they don’t turn up “fully formed”. In her opinion, talent who come from a background where they have experienced barriers may arguably be more resilient and prepared to work harder.
“I would argue you would be the better candidate and you’ll probably be more likely to succeed in a tough environment, because you’re used to having stuff not work for you all the time,” she added.
The idea of blind CVs or removing degree requirements from roles requires marketers to go a step further, said Daykin. As he pointed out, it’s no good if brands are making these moves, but then only sharing the job advert on their LinkedIn page. Businesses could consider posting roles on inclusive job listings via sites such as Media for All or Bloom, Daykin suggested.
When it comes to work culture, Owen insisted brands must do everything they can to ensure diverse talent isn’t being “hung out to dry” once they enter an organisation. Brixton Finishing School, for example, sends out advice packs to employers explaining why each new recruit should be seen as talent in their own right, rather than a “diversity hire”.
The notion any business would single someone out for special treatment, rather than respecting all employees, is a red flag for Daykin.
“It’s not like: ‘We hired Jenny and she’s this new person and you should be nice to her, because she’s different.’ Something has gone wrong there,” he said.
The value of setting targets
To achieve real change, both Daykin and Owen agreed with the need to set targets to ensure businesses commit.
The reality is, Owen argued, unless there is a KPI behind a course of action, it is unlikely to become a priority within business. She cited Deloitte research, which finds an organisation is more likely to be a high growth company if it sets a DE&I target on recruitment and talent retention.
“The fact is, unless you make everybody accountable for change there’s going to be a lot of no change happening and a lot of chatter about stuff, which has been going on now for quite a long time. Where’s the action?” Owen asked.
Daykin agreed that bringing about meaningful change requires commitment from the top, right up to the CEO.
“As soon as the target exists it makes people think about it and want to do something about it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to force yourself to make decisions that ‘I’m going to hire this person because they tick a box,’” he said.
“But it makes you make decisions to ensure that person will be there in the first place, that they will get through the front door, that you’re going to have the chance to hire that person. It’s super important it comes from the top, because as much as enthusiasm and plucky initiatives from the bottom are good, [leaders] influence what’s ultimately important to every single person in the business.”
If you’re a big brand you’re at the head of the table and you get to decide who eats at that table.
Ally Owen, Brixton Finishing School
Making the DE&I agenda an entire business issue should hopefully translate into creating more representative marketing. In his new book Inclusive Marketing, Daykin talks about the need for marketers to step outside their bubble at different stages of the process and think about different perspectives, which requires empathy.
This could involve questions like, have I forgotten someone from my brief? Do my insights exclude people? Is the way I’m planning this campaign losing out on a business opportunity? Does my media plan reach people?
“It’s important to have those checks along the process. Anyone can do inclusive marketing, but you have to have that empathy and willingness to step outside your bubble and it’s a hell of a lot easier if you have different perspectives around the table,” said Daykin.
He urged his marketing peers to ask themselves questions like what is the opportunity here? What audiences are we missing out on? While taking such an approach is good for society in general, it’s also a business imperative.
“It’s a case of, find audiences that haven’t been spoken to and haven’t been fully represented and make them buy your brand when other people aren’t caring enough. It’s marketing,” Daykin stated.
He pointed to the work of FMCG giant Reckitt, which has approached diversity and inclusion in the same way it tackled its digital transformation agenda years ago.
This has meant engaging senior leaders, putting resources behind the push and making it something everyone in the business has a stake in. Only then, Daykin argued, does inclusion become “business as usual.”
Ultimately, Owen believes brands have a tangible role to play in making diversity, equity and inclusion a number one priority in business.
“If you’re a big brand you’re at the head of the table and you get to decide who eats at that table. In a way you’re responsible for deciding what the table manners are,” she noted.
“If you’re a big brand you have the power to be a truly inclusive workforce and you can set the rules for all your suppliers as well. We know if you’re a brand with a diverse, inclusive workforce then you’re going to make more money.”
Marketing Week’s Opening Up campaign is pushing for the democratisation of marketing careers. Follow our coverage of the challenges and opportunities over the coming weeks. Read all the articles from the series so far here.