Marketing and media: Increase diversity, increase earnings
Covid-19 has exacerbated our inability to attract diverse aspiring marketing, advertising and media practitioners. What could already be a difficult-to-break-into industry for those fortunate enough to have the right connections, the best academic record, and/or the ability to forego financial reward, has become even more difficult with shrinking budgets, headcount freezes and even lack of desire for unpaid internships due to HR and insurance policies. And this has become an even bigger hurdle for those without these luxuries.
- Arguably, attracting young talent to our industry from a broad range of backgrounds is critical in the long-term. We need to ensure people who might not otherwise be exposed to our industry are aware of the career possibilities, but we also need to ensure roles are available to them.
- When overall opportunities to break-into our industry shrink, this puts certain individuals even more on the sidelines given their additional hurdles in the first place.
- Unpaid internships already put some people at a disadvantage, many of whom would not be able to afford to forego a wage, or not be considered given coveted places are allocated based on personal relationships and to those ‘in the know’.
- The industry is not sitting on its hands. There are some incredible organisations working towards encouraging diversity of talent in our industry, such as The Marketing Academy Foundation, which seeks to ‘give talented young people from challenging backgrounds’ the chance to fulfil their potential in our industry and Publicis Groupe’s ‘Embrace Change’ initiative.
Covid's economic impact has curbed job prospects across the board. But studies show increasing staff diversity and inclusivity increases earnings by 9 percentage points.
While there are organisations that exist to encourage diversity of talent, it is incumbent on all of us as marketing and media professionals to address this issue and make a difference. That was the case before Covid hit, and it is even more critical now. There are three simple principles we can use: acknowledgement; promotion; and taking the initial step.
- Acknowledgement – there can be a tendency to shy away from debating diversity issues, and hide behind the rationale of not wanting to ‘put a foot in it’. Whilst there is a risk, the greater risk is not saying anything at all.
- Promotion – how can we best expose our industry to the broadest talent pool possible? How can we all start talking to a wider audience about the benefits of joining our industry?
- Take an initial step – whether that is getting involved in existing initiatives, advertising roles via a wider range of methods instead of leaning towards connections, or promoting the adoption of paid internships within organisations. What is one thing that you can do?
The benefits of diversity are evidently broad, including fostering innovation and adding to a company’s bottom line with HBR’s study showing companies with above-average total diversity had 19 percentage points higher innovation revenues and 9 percentage points higher EBIT margins on average, but more importantly, we have a chance as an industry to level the playing field and do what’s right. We have the opportunity to make a change for the better and inspire a wider range of people to build careers in our industry – no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, abilities, sexual orientation, or even personality (hence the move towards cultural ‘add’ rather than cultural ‘fit’). The future can be bright – but we all need to play a part in achieving it.