New survey quantifies the pay gap for women and minorities in Canadian advertising

—Women just starting out in the industry make 20% less than men, while visible minority junior staffers make 22% less than white counterparts—

A comprehensive global survey for the World Federation of Advertisers provides new evidence that women and visible minorities are underpaid in the Canadian advertising sector, while many people with families and older workers feel discriminated against.

The survey, conducted by research firm Kantar, had 10,000 respondents from 27 countries around the world, including nearly 3,000 from the U.S. and Canada. Respondents were asked about a wide range of issues generally associated with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts: Age, gender, family status, ethnicity and disability.

Globally, Kantar found that more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents feel that not all employees are treated the same regardless of their “family status” (people with child care or other caregiver responsibilities), and a similar number feel their employer does not treat everyone the same regardless of age. The survey also revealed that women’s lived experiences are “notably poorer than men’s,” and ethnic minorities are less likely to feel as though they “belong at my company.”

“The marketing industry shows itself to be relatively progressive at first glance, but scratch beneath the surface and there is a myriad of stories of suffering,” said Gareth Rees, head of CX partnership services, insight division, Kantar. “Common themes arise again and again: Discrimination against caregivers and the old and the young; women and minorities living poorer work experiences; and stark inequalities between cohorts and countries.”

Kantar evaluates the feelings of inclusion using an “Inclusion Index,” a formula that combines the scores for “company sense of belonging” and “absence of discrimination,” and subtracts the score for “presence of negative behaviour.”

Overall the marketing industry score of 64 is higher than other industries Kantar has studied, including health and pharmaceuticals, and education (both at 60), and professional services at 59. The lowest Inclusion Index score was calculated in technology and telecommunications, at just 35%.

However, women in marketing and advertising feel less included than men overall. Globally the Inclusion Index score was 69% for men and 61% for women. The Canadian scores were higher overall, but the disparity between men and women was also greater: 74% for men and 64% for women.

“There is a confidence and strong sense of belonging that rings true of the marketing industry. But there are significant minorities in all countries saying they witness negative behaviours and discrimination on account of their age, family status, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, mental health, sexuality,” said the WFA’s CEO, Stephan Loerke.

According to the WFA, the pay gap between men and women in Canada is particularly bad, although the data also shows clear evidence of other problems in the Canadian industry:

The Canadian data

Gender pay gap: The study revealed “strong evidence” of a gender pay gap in Canada. Women make 5% less than men in executive and c-suite positions, for example, but the gap is much greater (20%) at trainee and junior executive ranks.

Ethnic minority sense of belonging: In terms of ethnic minorities, the survey showed that 12% of ethnic minority respondents in Canada report facing discrimination based on their racial background (compared to 2% of white respondents), and 66% of ethnic minority respondents say they feel like they belong at their company, compared to 78% of white respondents.

Ethnic minority pay gap: The data also shows that ethnic minorities are paid less than their white colleagues; here, too, the gap was widest for people just getting their start in the industry. At the executive management and c-suite level, the reported average salary for white respondents was about $161,000, compared to $146,000 for ethnic minority respondents, a gap of 10%.

At the junior/trainee level it was $63,000 and $52,000 respectively, a 22% gap (the U.S. data revealed almost no pay gap between white and ethnic minority respondents).

People with disabilities: 17% of respondents with a disability say they have faced discrimination because of that disability. And while 76% of non-disabled respondents feel like they belong at their company, just 51% of disabled respondents felt that way.

Family status discrimination: Just 28% of Canadian respondents said their company treats all employees the same regardless of family status (compared to 34% in the U.S.) And 40% of Canadian women respondents said family status can hinder their career (compared to 43% in the U.S.).

Age discrimination: 27% of Canadian respondents agree that their company does not treat all employees equally regardless of age (compared to 34% in the U.S.) and 40% of Canadian respondents say age can hinder one’s career (compared to 42% in the U.S.)

While most Canadian respondents said they feel their organization is taking steps to be more diverse and inclusive (79% of ethnic minority respondents and 82% of white respondents), a significant number (17% minority, 12% white) said they could leave their employer and the industry entirely if they don’t see improvement. Globally, 15% of respondents said they were considering leaving the industry over the lack of progress.

“No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and we now know where progress must be made,” said Loerke. “The onus on all of us is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive —and to measure our common progress in a second wave in the spring of 2023.”

“This survey shines a light on those stories so that action can be taken to address them,” said Rees. “There is a business and moral imperative to do so.”

David Brown