Room for progress remains in the marketing industry when it comes to achieving true inclusivity, a new report from the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) has argued.

The organisation’s study identified a high degree of alignment between the industry and academia regarding the importance of this issue, adding that “significant resources” have “poured into the recruitment and retention of diverse talent”.

Equally, however, gaps remain between the percentage of the US population that is, say, African-American and Hispanic compared with the staff of companies that belong to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the AEF’s parent.

Inconsistency in the public release of data about corporate diversity points at a wider inconsistency in the industry, too, and hampers the spreading of best practices and valuable conversations about inclusivity and representation.

“What is the right number? Let’s have the conversation about it. If we agree to 50% more diversity, is that the right number? Does it give me the optimal performance for growth? It’s hard to tell,” Bob Liodice, the ANA’s CEO, said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: The ANA charts progress – and shortcomings – in marketing’s inclusivity drive.)

Although good work in the area of inclusivity is taking place at the individual company level, one recommendation from the AEF report was to develop a truly holistic approach.

“Diversity is not something that we should compete with other companies on, but something we as a business community should embrace together, to raise us all up,” said William Gipson, president, end-to-end packaging transformation and chief diversity officer at Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser.

Making sure that every person within a marketing team is free to be themselves, and empowered in the fullest possible sense, is more important than simplistic notions of diversity.

“You can have all the diversity in the world in your offices, but if we are not encouraging inclusion – which is giving people a voice and giving power to people who have those diverse backgrounds and points of view – then there is no point in having that diversity,” said Val DiFebo, chief executive at agency Deutsch New York.

“If these individuals don’t feel the security to express their ideas and think other people are listening to them, then I think we’ve failed at diversity and inclusion.”

Sourced from WARC