South African Marketing Industry Alliance launches Results of the WFA Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Census

Results from the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) census of the global marketing industry have identified key challenges around family status, age, and gender as well as ethnicity and disability.

There are clear gaps in lived experience when these groups were compared to the industry average, both in individual markets and globally. For example, men scored 69% compared to women at 61% on Kantar’s Inclusion Index, which is generated by asking questions about people’s sense of belonging, the absence of discrimination and presence of negative behaviour. Unconscious bias is clearly more evident in the workplace than we think.

Despite these serious concerns, the marketing sector still outperformed every other category that has been analysed by research partner Kantar, scoring an overall 64% on the Inclusion Index, ahead of the next highest-performing sector of health and pharmaceuticals on 60%. As a global-first census, the industry now has a starting point for brands to start actively walking the talk rather than blindly trying to solve the problem of being all talk, no action.

The results are based on more than 10,000 responses from 27 markets around the world including South Africa, conducted in June and July 2021. Importantly, the online survey goes beyond the demographics of participants to also tap into their sense of belonging, along with their experience of discrimination and demeaning behaviour.

The research effort was led by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) in close collaboration with agencies associations, EACA and VoxComm, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week, Effies, GWI, Campaign, IAA and research firm, Kantar.

In South Africa, an alliance comprising MASA, the local WFA affiliate and sister industry bodies the ACA, ARB, IAB, MRF (Marketing Research Foundation) and Kantar South Africa spearheaded this project to ensure wide reach across the corporate, agency, SMME and freelance marketing landscape.

The most common forms of discrimination globally identified by the survey were family status and age, with 27% stating that their company does not treat all employees fairly, regardless of family status and 27% stating that their company does not treat all employees equally regardless of age. Thirty-six per cent of respondents agreed that age can hinder one’s career while 40% of women agreed that family status can hinder one’s career.

Globally, ethnic minorities also score lower on key questions such as “feel like I belong at my company” in nearly all markets. In the US, 17% say they have faced discrimination based on their racial background. South Africa recorded the highest level of discrimination due to ethnicity (19%) across all markets surveyed, so a sense of oppression still exists decades later, with non-white respondents also reporting greater perceived career obstacles. In many markets this is reflected by a gender pay gap. In the US and Canada, for example, the gap is worst among industry starters with a 13% gap in the US and a 20% gap in Canada, despite some ethnic minorities or foreign nationals reporting being paid more than the ethnic majority.

Encouragingly, the reported average salary of South African men is only higher than that of women at the executive management/C-suite level, notwithstanding the fact that women now make up the bulk of all positions, extending across top, middle and junior management all the way through to intern/trainee level.

That said, the career ladder looks different for those with family responsibilities other than dependent children, as 38% of women respondents believe that family status can hinder one’s career compared to 27% of men. In the South African context, family dynamics, coupled with religious, socio-cultural, economic, and political differences – compared to global benchmarks – may well be affecting this perception. In addition, as many as 50% of 18- to 24-year-old South African respondents think age hinders one’s chances of career progression.

The non-white average salary is finally on par with salaries, at a senior level with 55% of respondents in executive manager and C-suite positions non-white. Unfortunately, black South Africans are still vastly underrepresented in marketing overall, at just 37% compared to the national average of 90%.

In an industry struggling to find the right talent, the lack of diversity and inclusion is a serious concern with 17% saying they were likely to leave their current company because of the lack of inclusion and/or discrimination they experienced. Fifteen percent said they would leave the industry overall.

Other key findings include:

  • The lived experiences of people with disabilities are poorer in some but not all markets. Globally, 8% of disabled respondents say they have faced discrimination based on disability and they also tend to score lower against “feel like I belong at my company” than non-disabled respondents. No disabled respondents reported experiencing discrimination on the grounds of disability in the GCC countries, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey.
  • Mental health issues are still taboo for many. Around 7% of respondents globally reported a long-term health condition and of these, 71% said they related to mental health. However, just 44% of them had made their employers aware of the issue. The good news is that among those who did, 59% agreed their employer was “generally supportive”. The best performing country on this metric was Ireland, where 76% agreed.
  • Sense of belonging varies widely. The global average for “company sense of belonging” is 68% but this hides a wide range of performance, with Sweden top scoring on 76% and the bottom market achieving just 53%. Again, there is variation between different groups. In the US, the score averages 66%, peaking at 71% among white respondents compared to 59% among ethnic minorities.
  • Most reported that their organisations are taking active steps to address diversity and inclusion, but this sentiment varies greatly from country to country. Most respondents feel their company is working hard to become more diverse and inclusive, with 60% of global respondents agreeing. The US topped the chart at 83%, although there was a 14-percentage point difference between white respondents and those from ethnic minorities. In some countries the sentiment figure is significantly lower. In one market, only 26% of respondents believed their organisation was taking active steps to address diversity and inclusion.
  • There are substantially large variations between markets in general. When looking across all scores, Belgium scored highest of the 27 markets surveyed in Kantar’s Inclusion Index at 74%. But one of the starkest learnings from the survey is the extent to which some countries reported figures significantly below the global averages when it comes to the absence of discrimination and presence of negative behaviours. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to reviewing the responses from women in these same markets. These differences also corroborate systemic issues in some countries where there have been longstanding societal problems around gender, race and/or ethnicity.

The Census was designed based on the UK All In Census conducted by the UK Advertising Association, ISBA and IPA in March 2021 (whose results are not yet part of the global survey) and was actively supported by companies, including Beiersdorf, BP, Diageo, GSK, Heineken, Havas, Just Eat, m/Six, Omnicom Group, Reckitt and WPP.

The final global report was released on 10th December 2021 to coincide with World Human Rights Day and can be accessed on The South Africa specific results are included with this release.

The results will feed into the work of the WFA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force as well as national action plans led by WFA national associations and their industry partners around the world.

“This has been a Herculean but long overdue effort. For the very first time, we hear and see the marketing industry in all its different facets and nuance. There is a confidence and strong sense of belonging that rings true of the marketing industry. But 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,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA.

“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,” said Gareth Rees, Head of CX Partnership Services, Insight Division, Kantar.

Ivan Moroke, CEO South Africa, Insights Division, Kantar concludes: “The results are very comprehensive and as such it’s a lot to take in. We hope businesses take the time to absorb the findings and reflect on the aspects of their own culture where they need to clarify their standing and shake things up. It’s not about painting over the past. Rather, it’s about accurately reading the (board)room and understanding where to make the necessary step-changes needed to progress the SA marketing industry towards a more inclusive future.”

Brian Yuyi, MASA CEO says: “First and foremost, thank you very much to all industry colleagues who took the time to complete the survey. Our sincerest gratitude as well to all our industry body partners and Kantar SA for coming with us on this very important journey. The results pretty much speak for themselves and in most cases probably confirm that which we already know. What is important, however, is for everyone in the industry, especially those in decision making roles to act by putting in place realistic plans that will drive meaningful and positive change”

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