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Is ‘Digital Diverse’ enough? Greenlight Digital set own skills challenge after census

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

Marketing agency Greenlight Digital is asking its employees how they think the company is doing in regards to diversity and inclusion.

Is ‘Digital Diverse’ enough? Greenlight Digital set own skills challenge after census

IPA’s 2020 Industry Census showed that COVID-19 ‘exaggerated existing negative trends’ such as a lack of gender diversity and ongoing ageism within the industry.

Results of 2021 All In census from the IPA, AA, and ISBA have just been announced, highlighting some of the biggest issues agencies face in diversity and incluscion (D&I) today.

Greenlight, who recently ran its own Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging survey to see how it compared to the industry average after winning Bing’s Regional Partners Diversity & Inclusion Leader Award, has some advice on small steps the industry can take to improve.

Gender diversity: A problem to tackle in the boardroom

• 60% of the industry’s c-suite are male • 30% of Greenlight’s department heads are female • The overall reported gender pay gap from women to men in the industry is 24%

There is a general feeling across the industry that gender diversity is moving backwards. The 2020 IPA Industry Census also showed that the number of female employees in agencies fell by 12.8%, and the 2021 All In census found that only 39% of c-suite positions in the industry are being held by women. Greenlight has always strived to recognise and support female talent, with 30% of department heads and 55% of performance directors identifying as female. However, with only 25% of board members being female, it recognises that there is some way to go.

New data has also shown that the UK’s gender pay gap widened in 2020-21, and the ad industry’s recorded median gap for the year was higher-than-average at 17.85%. The All In census found that the overall reported gender pay gap from women to men in the industry is 24%. In 2018, Greenlight found that its median pay gap was 0%, showing the importance it places on having a fair and unbiased pay policy. Greenlight plans to review and republish its gender pay gap report in the coming months.

Under 25s and over 55s are under-represented in digital marketing

• 7% of those working in the industry are under 25 • Less than 5% of those working in the industry are 55+ • 10% of Greenlight employees are under 25 • 85% of Greenlight team leaders are under the age of 35

There is still an age divide within the advertising industry, and it seems that those aged 25 and under or 55+ are being affected the most. In 2020, the number of under 25s employed in agencies fell by almost 30%. The All In census found that only 7% of those employed by agencies are under the age of 25. Greenlight skew younger than the industry median, with 85% of team leaders under the age of 35 and 10% of current staff under 25. Younger talent is often attracted through its graduate scheme, while a graduate degree is not a prerequisite for many of Greenlight roles.

Black and Asian representation at a measly 10% in digital marketing

• Black and Asian representation in the industry is 10% • Black and Asian representation in the industry at c-suite level is 4% • 30% of Greenlight employees are from a BAME background

2020 brought the very real issue of racial discrimination into the public eye in a way that made it impossible for businesses to ignore. The Black Lives Matter protests shook the world and made everyone stand up and take notice in a way that’s not been seen for decades. And, although BAME representation in the advertising industry has improved in recent years, the All In census found that only 10% of industry employees identify as black or Asian. 30% of current Greenlight staff are from a BAME background but, despite winning the Diversity & Inclusion Leader Award at the 2019 Bing Regional Partner Awards, it knows that so much more can be done and is challenging itself and other agencies to do better to ensure a truly diverse industry through blind hiring and unconscious bias training for all staff.

10% of those working in agencies identify as LGBTQIA+, 3x more than the UK average

• 10% of those working in the industry identify as LGBTQIA+ • 20% of Greenlight employees are LGBTQIA+

There is good news for the advertising industry as the All In census finds that the number of employees identifying as LGBTQIA+ is significantly higher than the UK population average. The UK average is 3% whereas 10% of those working in agencies identify as LGBTQIA+. The All In census did find that 38% of those who identified as LGBTQIA+ felt under-represented at senior levels, compared with only 23% of heterosexual employees. Greenlight is above average in this area, with 1 in 5 employees identifying LGBTQIA+.

An industry-wide commitment to improve

Off the back of the census results, the All In Inclusion Working Group has set out an action plan to encourage change within the industry initially focusing on improving the experience and representation of black talent, disabled talent, and talent from working-class backgrounds.

Greenlight also plans to implement internal changes of its own in order to improve Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging practices within the business. It’s rolling out unconscious bias training for all employees, partnering with a non-biased recruitment platform, and looking at ways to provide support for the 17% of employees with non-Christian beliefs such as paid leave for non-Christian holidays and making provisions for prayer spaces in the office.

Head of People Aoife O’Sullivan adds: “For as long as I’ve worked at Greenlight it has been clear that DIB is at the heart of who we are. By promoting workplace diversity, we’re valuing everyone’s differences and allowing people to contribute their unique experiences. In doing so, we’re fostering better employee morale & productivity, which in turn impacts positively on business outcomes. Although we are very proud of winning the 2019 Bing Diversity & Inclusion Leader award, we understand that this is a drop in the ocean and there’s a lot more to be done to realise greater diversity & inclusivity at Greenlight.

“Understanding that DIB is not just the responsibility of the People team but can only be driven if bought into by the majority, we gathered a bunch of DIB passionate Greenlighters in 2020, namely the DIB Champions – our main aim being to collaborate on strategy & initiatives to foster DIB in all its facets. We quickly realised that we first needed to commit to continuously educating ourselves on all things DIB but also to understand the DIB demographics & experiences of our people. Hence our recent DIB survey. The results of the survey although mostly encouraging have also highlighted areas for Greenlight to improve upon and focus our DIB strategy moving forward. We may have a way to go, we may not always get it right, but as long as we are learning and committed to our cause, we’re continuing to strive for a better more inclusive workplace for all.”

Hannah Kimuyu, Director of Paid Media and Data Insights said: “The digital marketing industry is not diverse enough. There are plenty of women and people of colour in the industry as a whole, so we feel more balanced than other industries. But when it comes to leadership positions, we’re lacking diversity of all types. Greenlight has always tried, has always attempted to be an open, inclusive environment, and a lot of it has come from Andreas Pouros (CEO at Greenlight) and the leadership team. Although we’re based in London, we are an international agency. So, by nature of what we do, we have people from across the globe. Bringing in talent from different countries is part of the reason why we embrace diversity. But this is never enough, and we also know we are not perfect. There is so much more we can do, and we are just scratching the surface in how far we can push diversity and inclusion.

“In our recent survey (temperature check) we realised there was so much more than we had initially anticipated. Honestly another great learning experience and so essential to understanding the wider views on how we create and promote diversity and inclusion in the agency. The next challenge will be how we address everything in the right way and effectively. Once we have done this, we need to shout out to the industry in a way that can encourage and empower other agencies but also learning from them too. To do this right and fair and for me personally, it’s about having an open mind, open heart and open ears. If we all do a little less talking and a lot more listening, it’s a start to doing the right thing.”


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