NEWS18 October 2021

Women and minorities report poorer experiences of marketing industry

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Women have a poorer experience of working in marketing than men and there is evidence of a global average gender pay gap, suggests research on diversity, equity and inclusion conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

woman writing on a document while having a cup of coffee

The WFA conducted an online survey with 10,000 respondents across 27 countries including the US, Brazil, Canada, China, France and Sweden in June and July this year.

The research was led by the WFA alongside industry associations EACA and Voxcomm, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week, Effies, GWI, Campaign, IAA and Kantar.

Women’s experiences of the industry were poorer than men’s, the research found, with a global average score of 69% for men in the inclusion index, compared with 61% for women. The average sense of belonging score was also higher for men – 72% – than women – 66%.

The research found a global average gender pay gap of 13% at the most senior level of executive manager and C-suite roles (with data based on salary bands, not salary data). For other senior staff, the pay gap was 11% in favour of men, and there were other gaps at middle management ( 7%), junior management ( 1%) and industry starters, including interns, trainees and junior executives ( 5%).

The experience of minorities – including expatriates in Dubai and Singapore as well as ethnic minorities in other countries – was also poorer, according to the research. The average inclusion index score for ethnic minorities and foreign nationals was 61%, compared with 65% for ethnic majorities/nationals.

The research also found that the most common forms of discrimination were family status and age – 27% of respondents agreed that their company does not treat all employees fairly regardless of family status and the same proportion agreed their employer does not treat employees equally regardless of age.

Two-fifths ( 40%) of women surveyed agreed that ‘family status can hinder one’s career’, while 36% of all respondents agreed that age can hamper this.

Sense of belonging varied widely across the countries studied, with a global average of 68% but this hides a wide range of performance, with Sweden top scoring on 76% and the bottom market achieving just 53%.

However, there is also variation between different groups. In the US, the average belonging score was 66%, rising to 71% among white respondents and dropping to 59% among ethnic minorities. 

The survey was designed on the basis of the UK 'All In’ census by the UK Advertising Association, ISBA and IPA in March 2021, but the results of that survey are not included in the WFA global research.

Stephan Loerke, chief executive, the WFA, said: “There are significant minorities in all countries saying they witness negative behaviours and discrimination on account of their age, family status, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, mental health, sexuality… such that one in seven considers leaving the industry.

“No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and we now know where progress must be made. The onus on us all now is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive – and to measure our common progress in a second wave in the spring of 2023.”

Gareth Rees, head of CX partnership services, insight division, Kantar, added: “The marketing industry shows itself to be relatively progressive at first glance. But scratch beneath the surface and there is a myriad of stories of suffering. Common themes arise again and again; discrimination against care givers and the old and the young, women and minorities living poorer work experiences and stark inequalities between cohorts and countries. This survey shines a light on those stories so that action can be taken to address them. There is a business and moral imperative to do so.”


Kantar carried out the online survey in June and July 2021 with a sample of 10,349 across 27 countries. The research used Kantar’s Inclusion Index, with questions on an employee’s perspective on their environment and experience of their company, including sense of belonging, absence of discrimination and presence of demeaning behaviour.  

Respondents from the following countries participated in the research: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), Hong Kong SAR, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the USA.