The Comms Council gets to grips with diversity

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Despite widespread support for diversity and inclusiveness in the advertising & comms industry, there is a gap when it comes to formal policies and programmes, according to groundbreaking research undertaken by the NZ Commercial Communications Council.

The voluntary survey of Comms Council members was undertaken to better understand the current state of diversity in the industry, provide a benchmark and identify where the Comms Council can take a leadership role and provide support to members.

The survey found that more than nine out of 10 respondents believe in the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

However, fewer than a quarter (24%) were aware of their organisation having any diversity policies, programmes or initiatives. This lack of awareness extends to senior levels, with half stating they had no formal policy, programme or initiatives relating to diversity and inclusion.

“We know that our members want to do better in the area of diversity and inclusion, yet many aren’t sure about the best way to go about it,” said Comms Council ceo Paul Head.

“Like any area of business, if you want to do better you need to have a plan. Formal diversity policies and programmes provide a framework and help guide behaviours and measure outcomes.”

In response to the survey, the Comms Council has identified three key objectives:

  1. Increasing awareness of the benefits of diversity & inclusiveness in the communications industry workplace through board engagement, Diversity Works New Zealand engagement, awareness of training options and a 12-month communications plan.
  2. For every Comms Council member agency to have a D&I best practice policy in place by December 2018, through engagement with HR leaders and practical support through workshops.
  3. Assisting with the development of a more diverse talent pool through engagement at both high school and tertiary level.

As a first step, the Comms Council will develop a best-practice diversity & inclusion policy guide for members to help turn support into action that encourages greater diversity within the industry.

Comms Council inclusiveness & diversity council chair Megan Clark said: “We support a best-practice, action-based, measurable approach to D&I to effect positive change. We know that having a formal diversity policy or programme in place will not transform our industry overnight, but it’s an important first step.

“It shows that an organisation is serious about raising levels of diversity, is committed and is prepared to take action so that the agencies of the future more closely reflect the communities we are part of.

“At a minimum we want all of our member agencies to have a formal diversity policy and plan in place by the end of 2018. We believe this is an important and achievable goal and are committed to supporting our members to make this happen.”

The Comms Council will be hosting a policy workshop for HR leaders and HR champions within agencies in the first quarter of 2018. This practical workshop will feature a guest speaker, outline the impact of diversity commercially, provide a suite of useful tools and suggest how to promote diversity and implement policies and tools to improve in this area.

Summary of research findings:

  • The majority (70%) of respondents felt that their place of work was diverse, yet perceptions of the diversity of their leadership team and the industry as a whole were much lower.
  • Of the CEOs and MDs who participated in the survey, 63% were male, and 37% were female. Those in senior leadership roles were overwhelmingly of European ethnicity. About half the agencies surveyed had individuals of non-European ethnicity in their senior leadership teams; two had individuals of non-European ethnicity as MD or CEO.
  • Gender splits varied significantly by discipline/department. Creative/design was the most male skewed 58% male/39%, HR/Admin was the most female skewed.
  • The advertising and communications agencies surveyed were significantly younger than the total working population as a whole; 61% were under 35 versus 27% in the total NZ working age population. Whereas 23% of the working age population is 50-64, only 6% of those sampled fell into this age group.
  • There are more of European ethnicity in the industry compared to the general working population (87% versus 73%). One in 10 respondents were of Asian ethnicity (versus 13% of NZ working age population).  Pasifika peoples accounted for 3% versus 6% of working age population, while Māori were the most under-represented, accounting for 4% versus 13% in the working age population.
  • Proportions of LBGQT people within the industry mirrored those in the population as a whole, and similarly for different religious beliefs.
  • There appeared to be very low representation of people with disabilities or special needs with 1% of respondents having a disability or special need of some kind.

“Feedback to the survey suggests that many are still thinking about diversity in terms of gender, but it’s broader than this. Truly diverse and inclusive leadership takes into account age, ethnicity and gender,” Paul Head said.

“This is more than a feel-good initiative. The benefits of achieving greater diversity for our people, industry and clients are irrefutable. Greater diversity provides access to broader talent delivering creative advantage, greater innovation, improved decision-making and higher commercial returns.”

About the Comms Council’s Diversity & Inclusiveness Council:
The council’s purpose is to enhance the relevance and competitiveness of New Zealand’s advertising, marketing and communications industry by championing the benefits of diversity on creative thinking and commercial outcomes, and supporting members to develop greater diversity at all levels of their organisations.

Diversity in New Zealand – key facts

  • New Zealand society is changing. Statistics New Zealand is projecting that by 2038, 51% of all New Zealanders will be Asian, Maori or Pasifika. In Auckland today, almost 50% of the population is Maori, Asian and Pacific peoples; 44% of people were not born in New Zealand; and there are over 200 ethnicities, and 160 languages spoken.
  • Goldman Sachs estimates that closing the gender gap would boost NZ’s GDP by 10%.
  • According to research from Deloitte, companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their industry, and companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry.
  • Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry.
  • The companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their industry.
  • Companies with female board members are 26% more profitable than companies with all-male boards
  • NZX-listed companies have been required to report gender breakdown for their board directors and top office holders since 2013 and from October this year they are required to have a diversity policy or explain why not in their annual reports.

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