Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Advertising Industry Diversity: We've "Kind Of" Come a Long Way Baby, but Larger Pipeline and More Intentional Action from Industry and Educators Needed

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Advertising Industry Diversity: We've "Kind Of" Come a Long Way Baby, but Larger Pipeline and More Intentional Action from Industry and Educators Needed

Article excerpt

Diversity in the workplace makes us smarter. Recent studies show that diversity, particularly racial diversity, in both large corporations and small groups, enhances creativity and leads to innovation, better decision-making and more effective problem solving (Phillips, 2014). While society has grown more demographically diverse over the years, the advertising industry - along with the academic institutions that provide it with the talent pool - has fallen woefully behind the country. For example, according to a study by the Madison Avenue Project, Blacks represent 13% of the population but make up only 5% of advertising professionals (Schultz, 2011). In fact, the study pointed out that nearly a fifth of large ad agencies employ no Black professionals, a rate that is 60% higher than the general labor market (Schultz, 2011). Moreover, research demonstrates that, on those occasions when Blacks are employed in the industry, most are generally relegated to jobs in stand-alone multicultural agencies (Bendick & Egan, 2009).

The advertising industry has been charged with and trusted to reach and influence an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse populace, but lacks credibility given the limited extent to which it has impacted the color line within its own industry. Frankly, this problem is not just the responsibility of the advertising industry. It shares responsibility with the academy for the lack of workplace diversity in advertising.

Although advertising managers voice their desire to hire more ethnic minorities, many claim they cannot find diverse candidates, because few minorities pursue advertising as a career (Schultz, 2011). This is partially true. The majority of college students studying advertising and related fields actually reflect the advertising workforce - predominantly white and mostly female (Bendick & Egan, 2009; Fullerton & Kendrick, 2014). To impact change, there needs to be a more concerted effort by both the industry and the academy to diversify agencies by creating a talent pipeline of diverse candidates.

The History of Advertising Workplace Diversity

The advertising industry has a dismal history of hiring members from underrepresented groups. As early as the 1960s, agencies have been under significant pressure by civil rights organizations to diversify, an issue that became particularly evident after an Urban League investigation revealed few creative and executive positions were occupied by Blacks (Chambers, 2008). Another investigation, led by the American Association of Advertising Agencies in 1963, discovered that fewer than one percent of employees at Madison Avenue agencies were Black (Patel, 2010). This disgraceful hiring record sparked the New York State Commission on Human Rights (NYSCHR) to launch several inquiries examining the hiring practices of many New York City agencies (Elias, Phillips, VanRysdam & Chun, in press).

For example, in 1968 the Commission charged nearly a dozen leading ad agencies with employment discrimination (Chambers, 2008) and initiated complaints against a number of agencies for what the Commission called a poor record of hiring minorities and an unwillingness and inability to make meaningful changes to the culture (Chambers, 2008).

In fact, just ten years ago the New York City Commission on Human Rights threatened to force executives at leading advertising agencies to testify about their dismal record of hiring ethnic minorities. Out of this fear, 16 of New York's top ad agencies signed agreements with the Commission to increase their ethnic minority recruiting, diversify senior management and allow city officials to track their hiring progress (Texeira, 2006). Despite these efforts, a 2008 follow-up study conducted by attorney Cyrus Mehri and the NAACP concluded in a 100-page report that despite the threat of fines, necessary improvements in racial balance in advertising employment rates never occurred. The NAACP study revealed that "racial discrimination is 38 percent worse in the advertising industry than in the overall U. …

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