Sixty per cent of creatives feel they face unfair barriers due to their background, report finds

Published by media agency UM in partnership with professional network Bloom UK, the report paints a poor picture of inclusivity in the industry, especially at a leadership level.

9 December 2019

A new report has found that 60 per cent of those working in the creative and media industries believe they have faced barriers to their career progression because of their gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Published by media agency UM in partnership with professional network Bloom UK, the report found that 59 per cent of those working in the industry said that it was not “progressive” at all, which rose to 64 per cent among those with jobs at creative agencies specifically.

The report was put together by surveying more than 300 employees at various levels of seniority across creative agencies, media agencies and media owners in the UK.

The study paints a poor picture of diversity among creative agencies in particular. It found that a shocking 35 per cent of those working at creative agencies said they thought they had missed out on promotions due to their background, compared to 28 per cent across the creative and media sectors as a whole. Forty per cent of those working at creative agencies reported that they thought their background had prevented them getting a pay raise (compared to a 28 per cent average), while 53 per cent said they had to work harder to be seen as equal to their peers.

Sophia Durrani, managing partner, strategy at UM, said in a statement about the report: “The overwhelming message from the research is that our industry is still too focused on talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion and there’s not enough action. People are fed up: we need to stop resisting what the world actually looks like and find ways to embrace it.”
Durrani continued: “The data also suggests that perhaps treating our industry as one entity is the wrong way of looking at things. It may be that creative agencies are in a different place in their D&I [diversity and inclusion] journey.”

One of the issues thrown up by the report was the lack of diversity in leadership roles. Only 12 per cent of those surveyed said that their company had three or more people from BAME backgrounds at senior level; 8 per cent said they had three or more openly LGBTQ+ leaders; 15 per cent said they had three or more leaders from working-class backgrounds; while only seven per cent said they had a single leader with a disability.

Stephanie Matthews, president of Bloom UK, adds: “It’s possible some of these leaders exist and people just aren’t aware of them, as some of these characteristics aren’t always visible or talked about. However, it’s still very clear the communications industry is genuinely lacking diversity at the top.”

Interestingly, the report also picked up resistance from those in privileged positions, largely men, to efforts to improve inclusivity in the creative industries. Twenty-six per cent said that “the growing focus on inclusion in the creative/media sector” put senior white men at a disadvantage, while 34 per cent thought that women actually had more opportunities than men, in terms of support, training and personal development.

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About the Author

Laura Snoad

Laura is a London-based arts journalist who has been working for It’s Nice That on a freelance basis since 2016.

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