ANA: Marketing Industry Struggling to Become More Diverse

What: The ANA Educational Foundation has released the results of a study on efforts and difficulties around making the marketing talent pool more diverse.
Why it matters: Even though the marketing industry has come a long way on the inclusion road, only 13% of CMO positions are filled by people of color, signaling there are still long gaps between reality and achieving a diverse industry.

According to a new report by the ANA Educational Foundation, the marketing industry’s efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce are still not enough, as the overwhelming majority of the talent (87% of CMOs) is still predominantly white. The report, titled “Bridging the Diversity Disconnect: Charting More Inclusive Pathways to Growth,” touches on the various reasons why it’s essential to make the talent pool more diverse, as well as the factors that are still an obstacle for this to become a reality.

Why is Diversity so Important for the Industry?

According to the report, the structural disconnects between academia and industry need to be bridged because recruiting and retaining diverse talent brings direct benefits such as:

  • Good business results
  • Higher performance standards
  • Better team dynamics
  • More organizational agility
  • Better strategy overall

What Isn’t Working?

However, when interviewed by the research firm Egg Strategy, diverse talent acknowledged that breaking into the industry and then staying there was incredibly hard. The research identified factors like:

  • Management disconnect
  • Microagressions
  • Cultural illiteracy
  • Workplace integration dissonance

According to the study, there has been significant effort by companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Verizon to work with their agency partners to ensure diversity on the teams when executing campaigns. However, diversity numbers are still pretty low, as shown in these graphics taken from the report:

As written in the report, “the industry has focused on addressing the diversity issue, which is the right issue to focus on — but we have taken the wrong approach.”  The phrase “diversity and inclusion” suggests that diversity comes before inclusion when in reality diversity results from being inclusive. The problem then is that focusing on the result instead of thinking of how to get there makes us distracted from all the requirements to get to that result.

Thus, the report concludes that the focus must be how we can be more inclusive as an industry, both to attract and retain outstanding diverse talent: “Greater inclusivity is the key to improving diversity, and it has been demonstrated more diverse teams drive business growth. Inclusivity also signals to our next generation of talent that their voices truly matter, that they belong in the marketing and advertising industry, and that their talent is sorely needed.”


Cover image adapted from the report.