Advertising Age reported on an ADCOLOR® study showing that White advertising agencies are failing to retain employees of color—although the survey ignored the root issue of White advertising agencies failing to recruit and hire employees of color. Whatever.
Was it really necessary to conduct a study to expose common knowledge and common sense? Then again, a nonprofit enterprise like ADCOLOR® must justify its existence somehow.
ADCOLOR® Queen Bee Tiffany R. Warren declared, “We have seen a strong shift in recent years towards increasing diversity in creative industries, but there is still much work to be done as we navigate our way towards a more stable, satisfied and inclusive workforce.” The “strong shift” is actually “strong shit”—that is, bullshit. Plus, for someone who has held Chief Diversity Officer titles since at least 2005 to admit “there is still much work to be done” says it all. The truth is, not much work has been done.
Warren also stated, “The only way we can continue on the path towards inclusivity is by understanding the root causes that have left out diverse professionals for so long.” Um, simply reread the opening sentence of this post to discern the root. Better yet, just watch Roots.
Behind The Ad Industry’s Diverse Employee Retention Problem—And What Might Encourage Them To Stay
The findings were revealed as part of a new AdColor study that examines retention trends of diverse employees
By Ethan Jakob Craft
As the ad world continues to work to , it’s struggling to retain employees due to pervasive issues ranging from ill-defined career advancement to tokenism, according to a new study from AdColor.
The new findings were revealed in AdColor’s “State of the Workforce Study: Retention Outlook Through a DE&I Lens,” the first installment in a three-part report series conducted by the nonprofit organization that explores why multicultural employees in the ad industry are leaving their jobs—and what might encourage them to stay.
Reasons include: “psychologically unsafe work environments;” an apparent lack of dedication to improving diversity issues; and the industry’s emphasis on subjective “culture fits” that often award promotions to people who feel like the right fit, rather than to those who might be more deserving on merit.
“We have seen a strong shift in recent years towards increasing diversity in creative industries, but there is still much work to be done as we navigate our way towards a more stable, satisfied and inclusive workforce,” said AdColor founder Tiffany R. Warren.
Particularly since the death of George Floyd in 2020, which was followed by hundreds of brand and agency pledges to , many marketers have acted to establish both in-house and on-screen representation, erecting new internship programs and developing other resources to to join the ad world.
However, as revealed in the report, recent strides in haven’t necessarily translated into fostering a more inviting workplace for employees of marginalized races, genders and sexual orientations.
A whopping 57% of U.S. women say they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, while more than seven-in-10 Asian Americans say they’ve encountered anti-Asian hatred since the COVID-19 pandemic began almost two years ago.
Overall, some 38% creatives of color also report that they’ve “experienced job loss due to ethnicity,” according to Harris Poll data from 2021 cited in the report—perhaps not a surprise to some in what has historically been a fairly segregated, white-dominated industry where just identify as any sort of minority.
“The only way we can continue on the path towards inclusivity is by understanding the root causes that have left out diverse professionals for so long,” said Warren, an ad industry veteran who’s currently an executive VP and at Sony Music Group.
To remedy some of these issues, DE&I experts recommend things like providing employees access to a mentor; establishing and funding employee resource groups, or ERGs, for marginalized communities; publicly publishing your agency’s diversity data; and encouraging what the report calls a “speak-up culture.”
It also recommends against some practices, such as client-pleasing accountability. Some ad employees whose insights were used for this study, believe that social change movements like #MeToo or Black Lives Matter are only addressed “when there is a commercial benefit or they can be exploited” or monetized for “commercial gain,” the report said.
One agency employee who initially revealed their experiences as part of Digiday’s is quoted in the report as recalling a senior executive who prioritized diversity-related meetings only “when a client would ask for our D&I stats,” the employee said. Key elements of workforce testimony used by AdColor, including the aforementioned quote, originated from that series.
The AdColor study, which surveyed over 500 ad industry professionals associated with the organization, will be followed by two additional DE&I-related reports due to be published later in 2022.