4 reasons why you need to get diversity on the workplace agenda now (and how to do it)

The Diversity in Marketing and Advertising (DIMA) Summit explored gender, ethnicity, d**ks in the workplace, equal pay and lazy stereotyping. Jess Pike explores why these issues need our attention

1. An inclusive workforce is a commercially successful workforce

It's not rocket science: a diverse environment means a bubbling cauldron of diverse ideas, which in turn leads to greater commercial gains - particularly if diversity is embedded from the top down. According to McKinsey, boardrooms that are truly diverse deliver a 95% higher return on equity. And according to Aviva's global inclusion director and Stonewall chair Jan Gooding, national productivity is higher in countries that are more diverse.

Channel 4's CMO Dan Brooke (and boy, do these guys know how to raise the bar when it comes to workplace inclusivity) feels pretty peeved when he hears people referring to the diversity 'problem'. It's actually the opposite: diversity is a solution to a problem, not the problem in itself. 

2. Employees care about inclusivity a lot (as well as those much-talked about diversity quotas)

As they're weighing up job options, it's increasingly likely that employees will be checking out how many women and ethnic minorities hold senior managerial positions and/or sit on your board. All-male, all-white, all mid-fifties is, like, so 1997. Something not all brands have quite cottoned onto. 

3. Diversity and inclusivity in marketing and advertising campaigns can win big

The world as depicted through marketing and advertising should be the world that your audience relates to and sees themselves in - and for most people, it's a kaleidoscopic tapestry of colour, size, race and age. Earlier this year, Mars’ VP of marketing Michele Oliver urged brands to stop seeing diversity as an afterthought: following its diversity-focused campaigns for Maltesers, the brand grew by a huge 8%. From a business perspective, Oliver said it was the single most successful campaign for a Mars brand in “at least a decade”.

"Diversity is a solution to a problem, not the problem itself"

Add to this the fact that a recent survey revealed that almost half (49%) of British gay and bisexual men aged 18-34 indicated they’d be more likely to buy from brands who show LGBT people in their adverts, and you've got yourself a pretty compelling business case. 

4. Women are paid less in marketing than their male counterparts 

It's definitely worth considering why female marketing directors earn 17% less than their male peers (according to the Office for National Statistics). Yes, there's the career break issue, but as The Glass Wall authors Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob point out, women are also less willing to show off to their senior managers and highlight great work. They're also more likely to be reticent to show emotion in the workplace - something that can help propel their male counterparts forward.

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So how can you make a difference?

- Get a women's network up and running in your company (think of it like getting a campaign off the ground)

The first step will always be creating awareness and engaging your audience: you'll then be in a position to have an open dialogue and foster a sense of loyalty. At Coca-Cola, the women's network has two main objectives: to enable a two-way conversation with the wider organisation and to give women and men tangible, practical takeaways that will help them progress at work. Recent topics to be thrown under the microscope at Coca-Cola include career planning, career retention, networking and mental toughness.

- Remember that inclusivity means giving a voice to all

White, straight men need to be given a voice too - not least because as Token Man founder Daniele Fiandaca points out, no minority group ever affected change without the support of the majority. The narrative around diversity (and feminism) should be about inclusivity and not pitting one group against another. Getting men involved in your networks is pretty crucial: work out who your advocates are and get them involved. 

- Speak the language of your seniors - it can have a transformative effect

In business book The Glass Wall, Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob spoke to one woman who recalls suggesting the idea of job swaps to her agency boss - the planners and buyers weren't getting on and she thought this could increase collaboration and cross-departmental understanding. Her boss (male) was unimpressed. And then, much to her frustration, this woman's partner (male) questioned whether she'd mentioned to her boss the Dutch Total Football approach of the seventies, a tactical theory in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. The result for the Dutch team was reaching the World Cup Final in 1974. So, the agency worker in question decided to repeat the suggestion to her boss, adding in the football analogy to boost her chances. And guess what? He loved it. Sometimes mixing up your language and analogies in line with the personalities and backgrounds of your seniors can work wonders.

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