Diversity more important than pay, say advertising graduates

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A poll of 100 newly qualified young people hoping to work in the ad-industry has revealed the significant extent to which working for diverse employers now trumps pay.

According to a poll of Brixton Finishing School’s recently graduated ADcademy students, 71% said they valued diversity over competitive salaries and career progression among any future employers. This figure rose to 76% for non-white graduates.


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Competitive salaries were ranked as important by 58% of those polled – third behind strong training programmes (67%).

Reacting to the finding, Ailsa Buckley, deputy managing director at Havas Media Group, told HR magazine the findings were “stark, shocking and saddening".

She said: “Salary has already started to become a hygiene factor because the talent crunch is pushing wages up naturally, but what’s certainly increased is interviewees being much more savvy and wanting to know exactly what you’re doing on the DE&I front.”

But according to the Brixton Finishing School research, 55% of respondents dismissed agency proclamations on diversity as ‘PR’.

According to Buckley, this means the biggest challenge facing Adland leaders is proving that DE&I is a value rather than a tick-box exercise.

“We’ve tried to demonstrate this by launching two initiatives: a company-wide diversity committee, and what we call 'HKX Platform', an enhanced apprenticeship scheme that offers 100 placements to people from all backgrounds, including paying them a London Living Wage.”

She adds: “We're finding we definitely have to ‘show’ what we’re doing, rather than ‘say’ what we’re doing in the DE&I space."

The research also revealed a sizeable minority claimed they had already faced racial discrimination in their hunt for work. It found 39% of its non-white students said they had encountered racial discrimination in their fledging careers already.

“This is shocking,” said Buckley. “The advertising industry has, I think, done lots to promote itself as being open to anyone, but this research shows more clearly needs to be done.”

She added: “One problem is that it takes time for things like diversity ratios to change. Perhaps what companies really need to do is commit to seeing a few key things through to the end rather than trying to do too many initiatives that don't make a difference.”

Commenting on the findings, Brixton Finishing School founder Ally Owen said: “Adland can’t stop talking about the talent crunch – and our alumni are giving the clearest sign yet that a diverse workforce is what will win through.

"To all the organisations doing the hard graft around this, you’re winning. But to any of the others who still treat diversity as a tick-box exercise, the next generation of talent have given their verdict on you."

Brixton Finishing School’s latest research follows a similar poll it did in 2020, which found 71% thought the main barrier to pursuing a career in the advertising industry was ‘not knowing the right people'.

It also revealed that nearly a third (31%) felt their race was the biggest barrier to entering the industry, while 46% blasted unpaid internships as preventing those from different backgrounds from entering the ad industry.