Diversity in the workplace has been a hot topic for a long time, with countless debates on the subject with regard to its importance and its implementation. But on the business-minded side, how well does diversity actually pay for the companies which commit to it? Well, there is a strong argument to be made for the case that diversity often correlates with success, this being financial gain.
Arguably, marketing companies have a lot to gain from having a diverse workforce. Statistics show that those companies with the highest levels of gender diversity are 15% more likely to have higher levels of success, and those with the highest levels of ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to achieve success. Thus the importance of diversity is clear; diversity can lead to success and financial gain.
The reasons that a diverse workforce can lead to success are many. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and everything else means diversity of experience and, therefore, diversity of perspective. And with different perspectives come different ideas that can strengthen a company's creative output. Diversity fosters creativity. Additionally, if a company represents a wider variety of demographics they will find that it is easier to speak to those demographics in a way that is not based on stereotypes and assumptions (although there are other tactics that should be used to add to this, such as surveys, as no single person can represent an entire demographic).
Considering the benefits of diversity, then, it is shocking that there is still a significant lack of it. According to the IPA women only occupy 30% of senior agency roles, while people from BME backgrounds only account for 13% of senior agency roles. Yet these statistics do not simply reflect a lack of interest from these demographics – the IPA also reveals that 50% of junior roles are held by women, for example, demonstrating clear interest in the field.
The lack of diversity can be attributed to a range of things. For example, implicit biases can contribute, whereby without even realising, employers favour predominantly white men when seeking candidates to fill positions, leading to a lack of women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, while some companies may wish to diversify their workforce, they often fail to take the key step of diversifying their talent pool from which they find new hires. According to research, approximately 60% of job vacancies are unadvertised, meaning these positions are filled by people whose CVs companies already have, or by personal contacts. This means strong new candidates from different backgrounds are not just overlooked; they're not even given a chance to apply. In these areas, companies could stand to benefit from third-party recruitment. Recruitment agencies can avoid biases by scanning CVs purely in search of talent and skills to find the candidates who are truly the best fit for the roles. This means that the strongest candidates can be presented for job interviews, bypassing the subconscious biases of the employer. At Ruby Magpie we go a step further by encouraging an unconscious bias screening for CVs, removing gender, names, ages, addresses or any other information that could influence an employer's decision – these are called 'blind CVs'. As for diversity of recruitment, it stands to reason that a recruiter would have access to people from all sorts of backgrounds, thus allowing a more diverse list of candidates in the first place, contributing to a more diverse workforce.
However, equally as shocking as the lack of diversity are the pay gaps that exist - if diversity pays so well for the companies which implement it, why are the faces of diversity being paid less for the same roles?
Lately, there has been a lot of talk of gender pay gaps, particularly following the BBC's salary reveal which suggested a massive disparity in male salaries versus female salaries. But such pay gaps exist in the marketing industry as well, and it seems the problem may be getting worse rather than better: in 2006, the gender pay gap in marketing at senior level was 19%, but according to a 2017 article by Marketing Week a female senior marketing executive now earns 34% less than a male one. This suggests the wage gap is widening rather than getting narrower – surely surprising news in an era where our Prime Minister, for example, is a woman?
With all the talk of gender pay gaps, it is easy to overlook ethnic pay gaps, but these too are a huge problem. The research on ethnic pay gaps is less substantial than that on gender pay gaps, but nonetheless such pay gaps exist. For example, according to TUC black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less than their white counterparts, showing a chasm that inevitably translates into the marketing industry. Furthermore people of colour are underrepresented, as according to a report by Baroness McGregor-Smith, only 1 out of 16 top management roles are filled by people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
So, the answer to the question of how well diversity pays? Well, it is clear that there are financial benefits to diversity for companies as whole. However, the value of diversity is not reflected in the amount that people from minority groups are paid, and this is a problem that must be addressed, sooner rather than later.