I’ve been thinking quite a bit about diversity in the marketing world recently. Agencies in particular (and particularly outside London) seem to be staffed predominantly by youngish middle class white people, which isn’t terribly reflective of the diverse Great British Public that we’re supposed to flogging stuff to. There’s also lots of research that says that the more different backgrounds you put together to come up with ideas, the better the ideas will be.
It’s one of those ever decreasing circle type problems – as well as undoubtedly a bit of recruiting-in-your-own-image in some places, agencies who need experienced staff mainly have to recruit them from other agencies, who are also full of youngish middle class white people and thus the issue perpetuates.
By diversity I’m not just referring to ethnicity – the industry has historically been bad at attracting women to technical roles (how many female Developers do you know?) and bad at being flexible enough to accommodate people who need to work less than a fifty hour week in order to look after their health or to care for children or elderly parents. And don’t get me started on the rarity of agency staff over 50.
My new place is doing their bit by addressing the problem bottom-up. They’ve linked up with a local university to give talks, projects and placements to students from all kinds of backgrounds who might not be considering agency life as a career and they’re getting involved in She Does Digital – a Leeds group encouraging women to pursue careers in digital, set up by #girlbosses from search agency Epiphany. Importantly, my place is also open to flexible working and 20% of the staff are on some kind of non-standard contract including me – it was a big factor in my decision to join.
If other agencies follow suit, perhaps in a few years the industry will be a more diverse, more creative place – meaning we turn out even better work.
a Diversity Wheel, courtesy of John Hopkins University