Industry bodies say they are “significantly improving” gender equality but agency professionals told AdNews they want more.

While these leaders are grateful for the industry’s progress, at the same time the concentration of men in leadership roles and a persistent gender pay gap is not an excuse for complacency and continues to be a significant challenge.

Omnicom Media Group ANZ CEO Peter Horgan told AdNews progress has been made towards gender equality and pay parity within the media industry.

“(But) the latest MFA industry census and Workplace Gender Equality Agency report both show there is still a lot of work to be done,” Horgan said.

Media agencies have two industry-wide points of reference to track gender inequality.

One is the Media Federation of Australia (MFA)’s pay parity data which, now in its tenth year, occurs when employees performing equal or comparable work are paid the same amount, irrespective of their gender, race and other factors.

The recently launched Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) report tracks gender pay gap which is the difference in average and median hourly earnings between men and women. It’s calculated by looking at all employees’ salaries across an organisation, regardless of their job role, or level.

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The two data sets are not comparable.

The MFA Industry Census shows that pay parity has “essentially” been achieved with a reported range of -1% to 4% over the past 6 years in what men and women are paid in similar roles, MFA CEO Sophie Madden told AdNews.

“The media agency industry is among the most gender equitable in Australia,” Madden said.

“I’m proud that the MFA has been reporting our industry’s gender equality scorecard, [and] as a result, we have seen a significant improvement in gender equality – not just in pay parity, but also with much improved representation of women in media agency leadership, and the introduction of equitable workplace policies and initiatives that support women to have successful media agency careers.

“What I’d now like to see is accelerated improvement to bring female leadership representation in line with the general population of media agencies being 62% women.

“Change takes time but all key indicators suggest we will continue to move in the right direction.”

But the indies are largely missing out on representation 

Both the MFA census and WGEA reporting presents barriers for tracking progress at independent agencies, as the criteria reporting excludes most indies with only a handful making the cut such as This is Flow which is in the MFA and Howatson+Co which was the only indie agency to qualify for initial WGEA reporting.

Despite this lack of data, Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) CEO Sam Buchanan told AdNews while there are a lot of people ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to gender equity, the IMAA is genuinely committed to the delivery of tangible outcomes in our industry.

“With women making up the majority of our industry, it still perplexes me that they are underrepresented in senior leadership roles,” IMAA chair Jacquie Alley told AdNews.

“This data led to us to offer a heavily subsidised Inclusive Leadership training course for our member agency leaders, facilitated by Leaders for Good, as the IMAA’s Diversity & Inclusion Council’s first initiative.

“Whilst the impact is difficult to measure yet, participants reported a 48% increase in practising their new inclusive habits over the duration of the course which is promising.”

IMAA also launched a Female Leaders of Tomorrow pilot mentor program late last year, to provide one-on-one mentorship to empower the next generation of women as they prepare to step into greater leadership remits.

“Change isn’t easy but through education and mentoring we are hopeful we are on the right path to see more women find their rightful seats at the executive table,” Alley said.

“As we reflect on this year’s International Women’s Day theme of ‘Count her in’, I challenge all those with influence across our industry to consider which talent is receiving investment and how you can count more women in.”

Industry professionals says more needs to be done

Looking at the raw numbers it’s clear we still have work to do, says Match & Wood CEO Lyndelle O’Keefe.

“Whilst the higher concentration of men in certain roles may partially explain the gap, it’s not an excuse for complacency,” O’Keefe says.

“We have a responsibility to champion diversity and ensure that every member of our team, regardless of gender, is valued equitably. It’s not just about doing what’s right; this approach will ensure the long-term success and sustainability of our industry.”

Atomic 212° national CEO Claire Fenner says it’s hard to deny that the media agency industry has a gender equality problem, like most industries, but there are some really positive changes happening in the industry.

“The majority of our industry is female, yet senior leadership is still mostly male. The recent data released by WGEA confirms that the industry is still not achieving gender pay equity,” Fenner told AdNews.

“The more data we have available as an industry, the more organisations will be encouraged to make necessary changes, which is a really strong place to be and I’m hopeful that we will see a lot of positive change in the coming years.”

Equality Media + Marketing founder and managing director Marilla Akkermans also believes that media agencies have an issue with gender equality

“The media industry is powered predominantly by women and led predominantly by men,” Akkermans said.

“Why is that? It’s not because women lack experience, it’s because we still have massive gender bias within our category that naturally lends itself to men getting an easier ride to the top.

“And that’s not me saying men don’t work hard, but there’s no way that our industry isn’t full of extremely talented women who get overlooked when promotions take place.

“I believe this plays a huge role in the issue that we’re also facing with salary equality. Salary inequity begins from the moment a women’s career begins, with several studies showing that a male graduate generally gets paid more than a female grad and the gap only growing with the more experience we work so hard for.

“Couple this with the fact that women aren’t getting those leadership roles as easily as men and we’ve got a pretty big problem.

“The results published in late February from WEGA show how much of an issue we’re still facing as an industry. All agencies that were mandated to participate have a huge swing towards men being in the top paying jobs and only a handful of agencies reported no pay gap across total and base salary metrics.

“Some agencies were even proud of the fact that their pay gap was only 10%. How do you sleep at night knowing that your business is underpaying women for the exact same job that a man does?”

A deeper dive, what are agencies doing to help gender inequality?

Even with two standardised gender inequality reporting, Publicis Groupe started using workplace equity analytics platform Syndio to measure salary equality.

The platform allows the agency to identify inequities in compensation, representation and promotions by taking into account an employee’s city of work, department and career level, says Pauly Grant, Publicis Groupe chief talent officer ANZ.

“Using Syndio, we have identified pay equity across our Groupe in Australia to be 2%. This figure is below the pay equity gap of 3% as measured by the MFA Industry Census,” Grant says.

“While this shows we are making progress, we still have work to do to achieve a zero pay gap. It’s imperative that we address these issues through proactive measures such as undertaking salary audits, transparency in pay practices, and implementing policies that promote equitable compensation regardless of gender.”

At M&C Saatchi’s Bohemia CEO Paul Hutchison says there is no gender equality issue in terms of population or salary at the media agency.

“Our team is 64% female, our executive team is 57% female and our wider leadership team is 58% female. Our gender pay gap is negligible. As M&C Saatchi Group we are making progress and have work still to do with a gender pay gap just over 9%,” Hutchison said.

“At Bohemia this hasn’t happened by chance. It is something that is constantly reviewed and discussed and appropriate strategies and tactics are in place to address any potential imbalance that may occur.

“As a privileged white male I recognise that I must use my position to influence change and provide voices to women and all under-represented groups and ensure that I walk in other worlds to better understand everyone’s beliefs and experiences.”

Match & Wood’s approach to equality is rooted in proactivity and the recognition of each individual’s unique contributions.

“I am deeply committed to ensuring that women in our agency are never underestimated or overlooked for opportunities,” O’Keefe said.

“We are dedicated to creating an environment where everyone has a voice, feels recognised, and is genuinely heard.

“When it comes to gender equality, I think the job to be done is seeing what is special in our female colleagues, when they sometimes don’t see it in themselves.”

While Omnicom Media Group ANZ is proud to have achieved pay parity, Horgan says the holdco will continue to improve upon this to ensure balanced representation across all levels of our business.

“The implementation of our DE+I Charter shone a spotlight on what more we could be doing to facilitate equal opportunities. We engaged experts and our own people to ensure everything from candidate advertising through to parental leave, dress code and policies were inclusive and gender neutral,” Horgan said.

“We are continually strengthening OMG’s parental policies, in addition to paid primary and secondary carers leave we maintain tenure and superannuation for OMG parents to ensure no one is disadvantaged for wanting a family.”

Fenner at Atomic 212° says the media agency is also aware that constant reflection is important to overcome subconscious biases.

“No organisation can be complacent about this; we all need to reflect and recognise when something needs to change,” Fenner said.

“Our leadership team is 46% female, promoted from within the agency and we are proud of the generous paid parental leave we offer, including paying superannuation during primary caregiver leave.

“On average, for those members of the team who have taken paid parental leave, the period of paid primary carer leave has been equal to if not greater than 18 weeks, which exceeds the industry average. Additionally, our paid secondary carer leave is in line with the industry, if not at the upper end of the industry range.”

AdNews approached both Mediabrands and GroupM for commentary but respectively declined and did not respond to the opportunity.

Article originally published on AdNews


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