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Age & family status: most common reported forms of discrimination

Despite South African companies being better than the global average on actively taking steps to be more diverse, the country recorded the highest level of discrimination due to ethnicity (19%) across all markets surveyed.
Source: © Mark Bowden
Source: © Mark Bowden 123rf

This shows that, decades later, a sense of oppression still exists, with non-white respondents also reporting greater perceived career obstacles.

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

Gender pay gap

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. 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.

Most common forms of discrimination

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

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.

Unconscious bias

There are clear gaps in lived experience, 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.

More than 10,000 responses

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 and Kantar South Africa spearheaded this project to ensure wide reach across the corporate, agency, SMME and freelance marketing landscape.

The global report can be accessed here

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