Ed highlighted the importance of continuing to build awareness but agreed that “agencies need to act”. There is an acute awareness of the benefits of diversity on creativity and innovation; and now we need to execute measures to remove obstacles preventing diversity becoming real. “We need to attack the problem from different angles, from the top, from the bottom, through economics and attitude – all simultaneously. What is key … is shifting attitudes.”
As it stands the demographic of the industry is still made up predominately of middle-class Caucasian males. When hiring for roles even with a huge emphasis on considering talent from a diverse pool there is an acute lack of experienced profiles available. “The more senior the level – the harder it becomes to get a diverse mix.”
Sadly this is a fact that cannot be immediately changed. However Ed suggests that “what we can do is insist that we see diversity in CVs from recruiters and internal talent teams. We need to encourage change in how and where we source talent.” Bringing in new talent is the obvious way to increase diversity at entry and executive level “Recruitment is one of the most important things that an agency can do – and it should be a thing that senior people invest a significant amount of time focusing on.” Not only is it a route to creating a diverse workforce but also to consider “A bad client hurts for 6 months, a bad hire can hurt for years.”
Internal and external values need to align and be consistent across all layers of an agency and their third party providers. “It is all well and good to raise the flag for diversity, but if you aren’t communicating that directly and actively downwards to those who are doing the hiring it’s empty rhetoric.” Ensuring the importance of diversity is universally understood is crucial and will result in a united focus to increase diversity. “It’s about being internally vocal, as well as externally vocal”.
Importantly Ed noted that we need to be careful of not hiring purely based on diversity. Hiring still needs to be done based on talent. We must be aware of not making people feel like they have been hired because they are from a diverse background rather than the fact that they have talent or promise. “It would be patronising to make someone feel like they have been hired because they are from a different background or race.”
We need to consider diversity now and importantly in the future. “We need to approach by looking at the entry level talent that agencies should be targeting to bring new diversity into the work place.” We need to educate on various ways to get the skills and training to work in Marketing and Advertising. The industry needs to offer alternatives to going to University such as apprenticeship and training programs and importantly we must make sure that these are easily accessible, and make it known that they are a brilliant and readily available route to a career path.
Feasibility is a challenge to implementing diversity and it comes down to a simple economic problem. A lot of initial steps into the industry are unpaid and so require people to be able to afford to be able to live in London whilst working. “That eliminates a huge group of people as economically they can’t afford to live and work.” Many creative placements are unpaid and so what needs to change is the Legislation around this issue and that needs to come from the top.
Creature London is the first independent agency now Living Wage Accredited. They started the movement ‘Prevent Placement Poverty’ a pledge to pay all employees including placements the London living wage. This began as an article in Campaign written by Stu Outhwaite (one of the Partners at Creature) and Ben Harris (a long time Creative Collaborator of Creature). This has since led to 40 other UK based agencies signing up to the pledge. Dan Shute (Managing Partner at Creature) has been pursuing this agenda at the IPA encouraging them to insist on this behaviour (or at least paying living wage to placements) as criteria of membership. This initiative is a tangible example of individual action resulting in a wide spread change in attitude. Furthermore it is proof that raising awareness does foster actual results.
And Ed’s final thoughts on the current state of diversity? “At a lower level it does feel like diversity is becoming real – but is the journey finished? No it’s not. We are trying to take steps as we feel it’s incredibly important, but it’s still a learning process. You want sustainable change, not a quick fix.”
Link for more information on the Prevent Placement Poverty can be found here http://youngcreativecouncil.com/placement-poverty-pledge/
If you are considering an Apprenticeship program check out Digital Futures here http://www.wearedigitalfutures.co.uk/