“If employers are serious about improving diversity in marketing, then removing barriers in the recruitment process is pivotal.” This is a stark assessment of the opportunity and consequence of one of the biggest challenges facing the marketing industry – democratising marketing careers.
The analysis was offered by Michelle D’vaz-Plant, head of marketing at London Designer Outlet, for one of the launch articles in Marketing Week’s Opening Up series, which has been running since the spring.
The goals for Opening Up were to explore the blockages in recruitment processes and the drawbacks of traditional routes into the industry. The objective was to offer the insight necessary for the industry to increase accessibility to marketing careers to more people, from a greater variety of backgrounds, and at different stages in their career journey.
From countering the reluctance to embrace apprenticeships to dumping inherent bias in recruitment tactics, we have shone a light on problems and highlighted the consequences of inaction. Pulled from the testimony of those at the heart of efforts to enable change, as well as investigation into what’s going wrong and why, we present a checklist of what could be done but also a challenge – to play your part.
For context, we have been reporting for several years on the lack of ethnic and social diversity in marketing. Our own career and salary survey has shown for several years that non-white and people who identify as from lower socio-economic groups are underrepresented.
This is partly cultural. As someone who would be objectively classed as coming from a working class background, I can attest to the lack of awareness of marketing as a career option among large swathes of the population. Marketing was neither identified as a potential choice, nor ever presented as an option.
Meanwhile, I have heard from enough marketers of colour who have told me that low levels of awareness, poor perception and a lack of role models combine to make marketing seem inaccessible to many.
Visibility and understanding needs to be addressed, but it’s also about how marketers are recruited. Findings in our career and salary survey reveal that the vast majority of marketers are graduates or postgraduates, which, despite strides made in the democratisation of higher education, still doesn’t add up to a path to greater diversity. The percentage of non-white undergraduates and those with working class parents significantly trails the number of white, middle class students.
Marketing training and bespoke qualifications are essential to lifting the standard and status of marketing, of course. This is not an anti-educationalist rant. Under and postgraduates are valuable voices in marketing teams. But more than one route needs to taken, allowing for more voices to be found.
Marketing recruitment is not in crisis – despite a gap in requisite data and other skills, it’s safe to say that every available vacancy will be filled. But is that enough?
Apprenticeships and internships, augmented with training in fundamentals, are just two options that will enable you to cast your recruitment net wider. School and further education outreach is a means to increase awareness of marketing.
There are many more opportunities to find untapped potential. Yet seemingly a dearth of enthusiasm and plans for action.
The good news is, there are clear pathways to making changes. There are enough companies setting precedent that demystify alternative routes in, with social enterprises such as The School of Marketing and charitable foundations such as The Marketing Foundation doing the hard yards for you.
Our checklist, with links to the analysis that sits behind, should give you a sense of what’s possible. From unlocking the revenue share opportunity, to making use of the appetite for fair and meaningful internships, we present seven ways our investigation has found will help open up marketing.
Change requires energy, and effort, not just warm words. The current challenges marketers are facing are huge. Macroeconomic headaches, a lack of influence, and a myopia over measurement, to name just three. Marketing recruitment is not in crisis – despite a gap in requisite data and other skills, it’s safe to say that every available vacancy will be filled. But is that enough?One marketer on why being an apprentice feels like ‘hitting the jackpot’
The process by which marketers are recruited is not wholly fit for purpose. We are essentially barring a large group of potential stars from entering the industry. Inclusion is not an act of benevolence, it’s a means to improve output and deliver greater impact.
There are lots of initiatives and individuals doing great work. They deserve your support, but what’s required is commitment and change by all those hiring now and in the future. Over to you.
Marketing Week’s Opening Up campaign is pushing for the democratisation of marketing careers. Read all the articles from the series so far here.