New York Agencies Bow to Employee Diversity Concerns

11 September 2006

NEW YORK: The thorny issue of ethnic diversity in the US advertising industry in general and New York shops in particular has come into sharp focus again following an agreement by some big names to set numbers for the recruitment of black managers.

An examination of 16 agencies this year by the city's Human Rights Commission show that of their 8,000 employees, around 22% earn more than $100,000 (€78k; £53k) a year, but only 2.5% of those are black.

The numbers show little improvement on the findings of a similar inquiry 40 years ago. The Commission had subpoenaed the agencies to appear before its hearings, scheduled to begin at the start of this month's Advertising Week fest.

The firms, including those owned by the Interpublic Group and WPP Group, have now agreed to submit to three years of monitoring by the city, under which they will report hiring, promotion and retention figures.

They will also set up diversity boards and will link progress to their managers' compensation.

IPG evp Philippe Krakowsky believes these moves "will continue to make achieving an increasingly diverse work force and transparency on this issue major corporate priorities".

The world's number one advertising conglomerate, Omnicom has, however, decided to go it alone with an offer of $2.5 million over five years to promote diversity without specific hiring goals.

City officials have yet to respond.

Commission chairwoman Patricia Gatling told a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington: "In a city where African-Americans make up one-quarter of the population, with billions of dollars in purchase power, the lack of representation in the advertising industry is completely unacceptable."

She added: "There are plenty of secretaries and clerks, but very few African-Americans have risen much higher."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff