World Federation of Advertisers releases 11 action items for better DEI

Amid the parties and awards shows in Cannes last month, the World Federation of Advertisers introduced a new “Charter for Change” to drive real action on diversity, equity and inclusion across the industry.

The charter was developed with the WFA’s diversity and inclusion task force, based on findings from the Global DEI Census—which was developed from 10,000 in-depth interviews with marketing professionals in 27 markets around the world.

The researchers identified areas where both marketers and agencies needed improvement, concluding that one in seven people working in the industry would consider leaving their company because of the lack of diversity. (The CMA also looked at the staff retention implications of diversity  in its recent “From Engagement to Retention” study.)

“The ad industry has considerably stepped up its efforts in recent years when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but the inconvenient truth is that we still fall well short of where we should be,” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke in a release. “Most of the issues are global and therefore we call upon all multinational organizations to implement real change across all the markets where they operate. We believe that these actions could create real improvement.”

The Charter itself spells out 11 actions for workplaces to implement, along with some “ideas to steal” from other organizations. Four of the actions are related to leadership level changes: Create a diverse leadership team; collect data on inclusion and representation and make the data accessible to everyone; strengthen anti-discrimination policies and make them transparent; create safe spaces for employees to speak up about DEI.

Six of the actions are for specific groups found to have a “worse lived experience” in the DEI Census. The six groups and recommended actions were:

Age: Provide continued coaching, mentoring, and career development for experienced and younger employees alike. Idea to steal: “Consider running reverse mentoring programmes as a way of connecting senior leaders with the next generation of talent.”

Caregiving: Add emergency caregiver support to employer benefits plans, and ensure that decision-maker roles include leaders with caregiving responsibilities—for the young, but also for the elderly and the sick—to both serve as a positive example to others and encourage the adoption of flexible policies.

Gender: Support plans for women need to be tailored to the cultural differences and employment conditions in each market, so that women feel valued and provided with sufficient support to progress their careers. Idea to steal: “The Diageo-led #CreativeComeback is a global creative ‘returners’ scheme to support women, non-binary and gender non-conforming creatives as they return to work after a career break of at least 12 months.”

Race and ethnicity: Create programs and spaces to support and empower ethnic minorities to show commitment and progress to populations that usually report poorer lived experiences. Idea to steal: “L’AACC launched tailor-made training program offering 17 young people, aged 18 to 25, from priority neighbourhoods in Paris, to develop the skills necessary to train for creative jobs in advertising agencies.”

Disability and neurodivergence: Businesses should prioritize actions which help normalize and improve understanding of all disabilities. Accessibility needs must be discovered and accommodated as part of the employee onboarding experience.

Sexual orientation and gender identity: Companies must protect but also support LBGTQ+ employees. Benefits including pay, bonuses, parental leave, health insurance should be explicitly available to same-sex couples. Non-binary identifying employees should have their chosen identity recognized.

The final area of action is around mental health, which has become an area of greater concern during the pandemic. The charter calls on organizations to provide and promote mental health benefits so that they are accessible and top of mind, while people managers should be trained to respond to mental health issues and have supportive discussions around mental health with employees.

WFA provided an Idea to Steal from Publicis, which “rebranded Personal Leave as Wellbeing Leave, in recognition that when people get sick, it can be for physical or mental health reasons.”

David Brown