Pay gaps based on ethnicity and gender prominent in Canadian advertising

The World Federation of Advertisers' global talent survey finds junior employees are more likely to face wage discrimination.

By Justin Crann

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has released the findings of its first-ever diversity, equity and inclusion census,

The survey, conducted by the WFA with research partner Kantar, was a global effort to get a picture of how the industry was performing on DEI measures. In Canada, participation was driven by a group of agency and industry associations – 10,000 respondents participated globally, with 3,000 in North America. Strategy and Grenier signed on as media partners for the survey in Canada.

The survey found the marketing sector scored better than any other analysed by the firm, scoring an overall 64% on its “Inclusion Index,” a score determined based on participants’ sense of belonging, absence of discrimination in the workplace and presence of negative behaviours.

However, some troubling underlying trends exist.

There is evidence of a notable gap in the experiences between several groups, but most notably based on ethnicity. While just 12% of respondents in Canada belonging to an ethnic minority reported that they had faced discrimination based on their racial background, only 66% said they feel like they belong at their company, compared to 78% of white respondents.

The way discrimination is manifested most blatantly is in the form of a pay gap, especially among junior employees just entering the industry. People from a racial or ethnic minority earn 22% less than their white counterparts at junior levels, and while it begins to even out at the middle and senior levels, it spike back up to a 10% gap within the executive management and c-suite level. This is also an area where the Canadian industry is being outperformed by the U.S., where pay is relatively even.

There is also a gap between the experiences of men and women. Globally, men scored at 69% on the “Inclusion Index,” while women scored at 61% – and the gap is even clearer in Canada, where men scored at 74% and women at 64%. In terms of pay, there is a 20% gap between men and women at junior levels – worse than the United States at 13% – with the gap being 8% at senior levels and 5% at executive levels.

There are also significant issues for people living with disability in the Canadian marketing industry, with 17% of respondents with a disability saying they faced discrimination based upon it, while only 51% say they feel they belong at their company. About 8% of Canadian respondents reported having some kind of lasting health conditions, 76% of which are mental health issues. Only 38% of those respondents say they have reported their mental health issues to their employers.

Despite the negative findings, a significant majority of Canadians – 81% overall, and 79% of those belonging to racial minorities specifically – feel their organizations are taking steps to improve diversity and inclusion.

Still, the results of the census are a clear call to action, according to Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA. This is backed up by the fact that the survey found 17% of ethnic minorities and 12% of their white colleagues say they would leave their company if there wasn’t clear action on diversity and inclusion.

“No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and now we know where progress must be made,” he said in a release. “The onus on us all now is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive.”