New survey looks for real proof of progress on diversity, equity and inclusion

Last year, People of Colour in Advertising and Marketing conducted ground-breaking research on the lived experience of BIPOC individuals working in the industry.

The “Visible & Vocal” survey of more than 300 people was crucial to POCAM’s efforts to combat discrimination and racism in the industry, and provided invaluable data on issues like harassment, microaggressions, mental health and mentorship.

Now POCAM is conducting the study again to see what, if any, progress has been made in the last year. The survey is live now until Dec. 17, and only takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Last year, Visible & Vocal—conducted a few months after the murder of George Floyd, when much of the ad industry was talking about systemic racism—was about providing a voice to BIPOC professionals on issues many have felt strongly about, but did not feel comfortable talking about. Now it’s important to see how things have changed in the last 12 months, said Julian Franklin (right) of Franklin Management Group, and part of the POCAM steering committee.

“Last year was such a year of change,” he said. “Has the lustre of what we wanted to do in diversity, equity and inclusion dimmed?”

They have added new questions focused on understanding training and hiring practices, but most of the study will look familiar to those who completed it last year.

“It is a tracking study, so the base will be the same from year to year so we can track differences over time,” said Chasson Gracie (below), group planning director at Omnicom/Dieste, a leader on the research for POCAM. “For example, have the percentage of people experiencing microagressions decreased from 2020 levels?”

The goal of the study is to hold the industry accountable, he said. “Are BIPOC feeling less discrimination now? And we have a benchmark for it. Are BIPOC folks less likely to be feeling stress at work compared to last year? Are companies offering the mentorship/sponsorships promised in 2020?”

Some of the key benchmark data from last year’s survey include:

  • 33% of BIPOC professionals working in advertising and marketing have experienced harassment on the job;
  • 56% have faced discrimination;
  • 83% reported dealing with microaggressions (casual questions, remarks and actions, based on stereotypes that cause harm); and
  • 30% reported negative mental health impacts stemming from racist experiences at work.

Franklin said that one area he’ll be looking at for signs of progress is around mentorship.

“If there’s an improvement in how Black and Indigenous, people of colour see [people like] themselves in leadership positions… How has that changed?” he said. Mentorship and seeing other BIPOC in leadership positions is important in terms of keeping young BIPOC in the industry, but last year 78% of respondents said they don’t see someone who looks like them in leadership positions.

“What does that mean? Is there a gap? Yes, but has that changed in the year?” he said. “I think the industry is making a better effort and trying to put a plan in place to actually have the listing time to action.”

But there’s obviously still work to be done, and the new research will help identify where more effort is needed to create programs and develop real solutions. “And then we keep moving forward, and do this year over year to see how the trend continues.”

David Brown