PrideAM report offers new data on the 2SLGBTQ+ experience in ad agencies

With Pride Month coming to an end, PrideAM has issued “Queer Lived Experience Report 2022,” which details how Canada’s ad agencies are failing their 2SLGBTQ+ staff and calls on them to do more to create more inclusive workplaces.

The report, which is based on the 2020 ICA Talent Census, found that 11% of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents have experienced homophobia in their agency and are 75% more likely to experience sexual harassment.

The report’s authors, Jerry Jarosinski, Deven Dionisi, and Sam Archibald, say that despite the perception that advertising is generally a progressive industry, the research shows there are meaningful problems.

“There is a misconception that because agencies are a part of the creative industry, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are absent, or less pronounced than in the average workplace. Or perhaps think the industry is immune to these issues,” they wrote in the introduction to the report. “Discrimination is systemic and privilege is structural.”

The purpose of the report was to measure how 2SLGBTQ+ individuals feel about their work experience, establish benchmarks to identify priorities, and develop solutions to create more inclusive and diverse workplace cultures.

“This is a stepping stone,” said Jarosinski, senior director, CRM strategy at Klick. ”We will definitely look at a follow-up study to dig deeper into these issues and also to recruit more individuals to provide results.”

The researchers found four major findings:

  1. 2SLGBTQ+ representation in Canadian advertising is greater than the general population, however those 2SLGBTQ+ professionals are younger and have lower salaries than their straight colleagues;
  2. There is evidence of “guarding of sexual or gender orientation and identity”;
  3. 2SLGBTQ+ respondents have experienced more discrimination in the workplace than straight workers; and
  4. Overall, 2SLGBTQ+ respondents hold favourable views of employer efforts to create bias-free cultures, but are “slightly more skeptical on agency change.”

“The exposure and familiarity with discrimination is an indicator as to why we have gaps in representation in our industry,” said Dionisi, director of marketing strategy and insights at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership.

And while there is greater representation in advertising than in the general population, 2SLGBTQ+ respondents were 29% less likely to be department leads or directors, and 31% less likely to be executives.

“We have more representation than in the general community, but the opportunity is for more 2SLGBTQ+ folk to be agency leaders, and to really have positions of power in the agency community,” said Archibald, owner and creative director of the creative agency Shortstop.

In terms of disclosure, 33% of respondents who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ did not answer the question: “Are you out?”

The authors said they could not conclude those people are not “out”; rather, they said, “it could indicate an absence or deficiency of emotional safety or security in order to disclose this status to a public, anonymous source.”

The authors conclude with an appeal to the industry.

The findings should be a starting point, they wrote. And rather than instinctively reach out to 2SLGBTQ+ to start a discussion on inclusion and representation, the first step should be to explore actions as an agency and through HR departments.

“Avoid tokenism and placing the burden on your out 2SLGBTQ+ employees to speak on behalf of the community, those in the industry, and those at the agency who might be withholding their authentic selves,” they said.

David Brown