IPA Agency Census: Industry must not ‘lose momentum’ in diversity efforts

IPA Agency Census: Industry must not ‘lose momentum’ in diversity efforts

The proportion of women in C-suite positions in agencies has marginally increased year on year, alongside a small reduction in the gender pay gap, according to new IPA figures.

The annual IPA Agency Census surveys its members in media, creative and other agencies, revealing staff numbers and diversity changes across the industry.

Total employee numbers of IPA member agencies have “stabilised” at 26,630 in September 2023 — a 1.3% increase on the previous year. Within that, the number of employees in media agencies increased 2.4% to 11,932.

Total staff turnover was reported at 31.2% in 2023, with media agencies recording a slightly lower turnover of 30.8% — both figures are slightly below the levels of the previous year.

The number of male employees accounted for 44.6% of all staff in the census, while female employees represented 54.7%.

More than half of agencies (54.8%) said they were using a hybrid model of three days in office and two days away, while 27% reported using a two-day office/three-day remote model.

Paul Bainsfair, the IPA’s director-general, said: “After a dip in employee numbers during Covid and then a sharp recovery last year, we are now seeing a levelling out. As such, there are less dramatic improvements this year across key metrics, although some progress in some areas, such as the increase in women at the most senior levels of our business, which is most welcome.

“What is clear, however, with overall numbers of people from non-white backgrounds and numbers of people from non-white backgrounds in the C-suite both declining marginally, is that we mustn’t lose momentum on the great work our agencies have invested in over the past few years to make our business more diverse and inclusive.”

Bainsfair emphasised the importance of continuing efforts to attract, retain, promote and fairly remunerate talent.

Progress stalling

Women in C-suite positions were “up marginally” from 37.5% in 2022 to 37.9% in 2023, with those at the most senior level — including CEO, managing director and chair — up from 31.2% to 37.2%. However, in media agencies, this proportion had decreased from 39% to 37.7% in 2023.

A gender pay gap of 15.2% in favour of men existed among agencies that reported their salary breakdowns by gender and seniority — down from 17.4% in 2022. The gender pay gap was higher in creative and other non-media agencies, where it was 20.5%, compared with 8.6% in media agencies. In media agencies, the gender pay gap was 14.3% in 2022.

Leila Siddiqi, IPA director of diversity and inclusion, said this year’s findings showed “a more settled snapshot of the industry” compared with previous years.

She added: “They also flag, however, that while the percentage of people from non-white backgrounds, at 23.3% of our business, is significantly higher than the ONS’s national figures for the UK’s percentage of 18%. There is a stalling of progress this year in terms of the recruitment, progression and remuneration of ethnically diverse talent.”

Wider ethnicity pay gap

The proportion of employees from non-white backgrounds was down slightly from 23.6% in 2022, when this group accounted for 11.2% of executive management and C-suite roles, compared with 11% in the latest census.

Individuals from non-white backgrounds made up for more than a third (35.6%) of entry and junior-level roles — a minor increase from the previous year. For media agencies, this figure was 39.2% in 2023, up from 36.7% the previous year.

The census also uncovered an ethnicity pay gap in favour of white employees at 21.6%. This gap was higher for media agencies at 23.6%, compared with 17.3% at other agencies — both figures were higher than in 2022 due to the small increase in non-white employees at junior and entry levels, alongside the decrease in non-white employees at the most senior levels.

Siddiqi added that this indicated “extra attention and fair opportunities” needed to be provided, with “possible interventions” in the future including insisting on diverse shortlists when working with recruitment agencies or using the Apprenticeship Levy for upskilling.

“By shining a light on areas that need our attention, we can make speedier progress. The richer and more diverse the composition of our industry, the more relevant and interesting we will be for our clients, audiences and modern-day British society,” she concluded.

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