Educated paid search marketers should know that building a diverse and inclusive workforce is the right thing to do. Our agencies, companies, and vendors should look like the customers and communities we serve and even if there was a cost involved it would be a price worth paying to do the right thing.
All of the research indicates companies that are in the top quartile for diversity and inclusion are 35% more likely to have a better return on investment, according to research by McKinsey and Company. Businesses that promote a healthy mix of male and female employees are 15% more likely to outperform competitors.
Given that encouraging diversity and inclusion are both the right thing and the smart thing to do, why have we seen so little progress?
Oona King, Director of Diverse Marketing at YouTube, offered some important information in The Case For Diversity in Advertising in Think with Google. King wrote “In 1978, five percent of the ad industry’s workforce was composed of Black and Hispanic workers. But in 2014, some 36 years later, African Americans made up only 5.8% of the ad industry.”
Lorraine Twohill, Senior VP of Global Marketing at Google, in her article 4 Lessons We’ve Learned, Sometimes the Hard Way, About Inclusive Marketing, offered a number of ideas for building a real diversity and inclusion efforts:
- “The makeup of your team matters…there is no shortcut here. It takes time to seek out diverse talent. Everyone knows this. But in the rush to fill an open role it can be all too easy to fall back on the usual suspects.”
- Diverse marketing isn’t just a box you can tick. Twohill pointed out that there are many dimensions of diversity beyond race and gender. “It’s also about age. Geography. Socio-Economic diversity. Relatable jobs. Abilities. Sexuality.” Google developed a half-day training session with in-depth information that was delivered to 90% of team members and 200 key agency partners.
- “No women in the kitchen please.” Twohill wrote that “only 37% of people who appear in ads are women.” And often they are portrayed in stereotypical ways. “85% of women said ads do not represent their real-world selves.”
- Hold yourself accountable. Google partnered with the Geena Davis Institute and USC to understand representation of women in the ad and video creative. “The initial results surprise us. Fifty-four percent of our images featured men – not as heavily skewed as we had feared. But in other categories, we were further off. A manual analysis showed that average age appeared to be around 26, below the national average of 38. Only 10% of our web images featured black or Hispanic people.” But Google is using this research as a benchmark.
Microsoft has also been a leader in the push for a more diverse and inclusive online marketing industry. “In 2014, Microsoft launched its 10 inclusive behaviors which was a game changer for many team leaders at that time,” said Ravleen Beeston, Bing’s head of UK sales. Beeston was quoted in Bing on Diversity and Inclusion “We must be the change we want to see” by Danielle Gibson published in The Drum blog.
Gibson wrote that “according to Kantar Milward Brown and Unilever analysis of 186 ads, the more progressive ads are 25% more likely to effective.”
Microsoft has also played a leading role in advancing the inclusion of women in the industry through the Janes of Digital initiative that fosters safe learning and inclusion of women at online marketing conferences and in the industry in general.
Despite a huge challenge, many in the paid search community are dedicated to doing the right and the smart thing. At LinkedIn, it’s not just diversity and inclusion. Their efforts focus on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Because what’s the point of diversity and inclusion if team members don’t feel like they belong? We need to build a paid search industry that’s not only diverse and inclusive but also a place where we can all belong.