The marketing and advertising industry is more diverse than ever, according to the Association of National Advertisers. For the fifth year in a row, ANA, the oldest trade association for advertising professionals in the U.S., conducted three separate studies among its members and compiled the results into a report readily available online. While the report concludes that the overall representation of women and ethnic minorities has risen, much work remains to diversify leadership roles in the industry.

Diversity Among Marketers In The U.S.

The first study in the report, referred to as a “diversity benchmark,” breaks down the marketing departments of U.S.-based ANA member companies and features four distinct sections looking at the gender identity, ethnicity, orientation and ability of respondents. The final section of the diversity benchmark, which is presented later on in the report, asks participants to share the ways their companies have worked to increase diversity within their marketing departments, as well as any challenges they have encountered in doing so.

Representing 19,966 marketers in total, 81 companies with marketing departments of all sizes completed this study, the highest ever in the five-year history of the project.

According to the study, approximately two-thirds of employees working in the marketing departments of U.S.-based ANA member companies identify as female, with male-identifying and nonbinary employees making up 32.4 percent and 0.1 percent of the grouping, respectively. The authors note female representation is now at the highest it’s ever been since ANA began tallying diversity data for these annual reports five years ago.

This trend also holds true when looking at the position employees hold at the companies included in the study, though senior roles are much more evenly split among genders. For instance, 84.5 percent of female-identifying employees in the study worked in an administrative, clerical or support capacity, as opposed to 15.4 percent of their male-identifying peers. On the flip side, 55.6 percent of senior employees identified as female while 44.2 percent identified as male.

“Representation of women in the industry overall and in leadership positions continues to be strong,” Bob Liodice, ANA CEO, wrote in the report’s introduction, “and I am happy to tell you that we are finally making strides to improve ethnic diversity.”

Results show the industry is also more ethnically diverse than ever, with increases in Black and Hispanic representation in participating marketing departments nationwide. Out of 19,966 qualifying marketers, a little over 7 percent were reportedly African American/Black, while Asian and Hispanic/Latino workers came in at 10.2 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively.

The study does note, however, that representation for Black and Hispanic people in the industry is still significantly lower than their proportion of the U.S. population. Inversely, Asian representation dipped slightly since last year’s report came out, but Asian representation in the industry remains higher than its proportion of the U.S. population.

As for what jobs they hold, ethnic diversity was much higher among entry-level jobs as opposed to senior leadership positions. The one exception being the administrative level, which was the most diverse.

The report credits a “multicultural” younger U.S. workforce, as well as corporate initiatives to diversify talent pools, as the reasons for the rise in ethnic diversity in entry-level marketing roles, an increase that has been documented in every year of the study.

Finally, the study asked ANA-member companies whether they allowed their employees to self-identify as being either LGBTQ or a person with a disability, and by a large majority, they did. Fifty of the 81 companies surveyed provided workers the opportunity to self-identify as being LGBTQ, while 67 allowed employees to self-identify as being a person with a disability. This was a rather confusing way to present this metric, as the study did not specify how companies allowed employees to “self-identify” as a person with a disability and how those efforts benefited or helped those individuals.

Diversity In The Industry Worldwide

Looking beyond the border, the second study in the report looked at diversity metrics in ANA membership worldwide. Marketers and “marketing solutions providers” at ANA member companies were asked to volunteer and anonymously provide information on their gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

The study found that while ethnic diversity has improved and is at an all-time high, ANA’s overall membership remains overwhelmingly white. In addition, 68.3 percent of respondents identified as female, vastly outnumbering their male-identifying counterparts, with similar numbers reported in the last four studies.

As for sexual orientation, gay, lesbian, bisexual and “other” representation has risen since last year, though heterosexuals account for 92.6 percent of the 22,916 responses to this question. However, it should be noted that while the “other” category includes anthrosexual, asexual, demisexual and pansexual identities, it also includes “transsexual,” conflating sexual orientation and gender identity when they’re separate and distinct concepts. Not only that, but the term has been overwhelmingly rejected by the transgender community, and its usage is discouraged by several media organizations, including GLADD and NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, both of which offer glossaries on LGBTQ+ terminology to help everyone avoid making this mistake.

Diversity Among Industry Leaders

The third and final study included in ANA’s diversity report looks at the profile of chief marketing officers and their equivalents at 931 of the organization’s member companies. According to the latest numbers, 57.3 percent of top marketers identify as female, a percentage that has risen each year since counting began in 2018.

Ethnic diversity among CMOs and their equivalents has slowly crept up to 14.6 percent, up from 13 percent five years ago, with African Americans/Blacks comprising 5 percent, Asians 5.8 percent and Hispanics/Latinos 3.8 percent of ANA member companies CMOs.

Actionable Plans To Improve Diversity

Respondents in the U.S.-centered diversity benchmark were also asked to identify practices that have helped their companies to improve diversity within their marketing departments, as well as any challenges they faced. The feedback they received spans several topics, including talent recruitment and retention; diversity, equity and inclusion strategy; external engagement and multicultural marketing; and brand recognition.

In the case of DEI, respondents’ recommendations include asking companies to listen to associates to help identify equity and inclusion needs, as well as launch diversity councils comprising employees from varying genders, races and job functions that meet regularly with executives and talent and marketing teams to strategize on how to attract, retain and develop diverse talent. Respondents also recommend expanding DEI efforts to include supplier diversity, the creation of business resource groups and community outreach.

As for success stories, the biggest takeaways seem to be that true progress is made when companies set clear DEI goals that can be tracked and measured long-term, as well as hold senior leadership accountable for building diversity in their organization, with some even going as far as requiring leaders to have at least one diversity and inclusion objective as part of their annual performance goals.

When it comes to ensuring a diverse slate of candidates, respondents said their companies employed a variety of strategies, from requiring a percentage of candidates interviewed come from minority groups to relaxing degree requirements in job descriptions. Internships also played a vital role in attracting diverse talent, with companies launching training programs allowing interns to explore different departments, as well as ensuring that internships are fully paid and cover living expenses, so as to not price anyone out. Some companies also host internship programs for students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as partner with diverse student organizations and historically Black colleges and universities.

Executive mentorship played a huge role in retaining diverse talent, according to respondents, with some companies maintaining a pipeline that moves diverse talent to “destination roles” rapidly, while others had programs to drive advancement opportunities for individuals from minority groups, including female and LGBTQ+ employees.

On the flip side, numerous responses called out the geographic location of their company as a huge obstacle to recruiting younger and more diverse candidates. This was a bigger challenge for companies in rural areas, especially those that hadn’t embraced remote work. In response, one company even moved its marketing department to a larger metro area, which reportedly helped boost the recruitment of diverse talent.

Click here to read the report in its entirety, including a case study with Citigroup Inc. tracking the work they’ve done to diversify their staff of more than 220,000 workers worldwide, as well as links to case studies from past years featuring Verizon, IBM, General Mills, Kimberly-Clark and more.