Gender Pay Gap reporting has forced the sector to recognise that, although there are complex societal reasons for the disparity between the average pay of men and women, increasing the number of women in senior (particularly creative) roles needs to be a priority.

The challenge is that this is not the sort of change which can be made over night (or even within the 12 months between publishable reports). And so agencies find themselves in an unenviable position where their clients are expecting (even demanding) year-on-year statistical improvement in the pay gap but they have limited tools available to them to meet those expectations.

The reported claims of discrimination by the male JWT creatives is an important reminder that real and effective change can only come about as a result of longer term investment in initiatives. Positive discrimination is essentially unlawful in the UK. Equal opportunities means just that: an employer must make all recruitment and promotion decisions based on who is the best candidate without consideration of sex. The same applies in a redundancy selection exercise.

As we look ahead to the possibility of ethnicity pay gap reporting (which we expect to highlight under representation of ethnic minorities) it's important to recognise that there is no "quick fix". However, there is plenty for agencies to be doing to bring about longer term change. For example:

  • Working together as a sector to encourage unrepresented groups to consider a career in advertising will result in a bigger pool of candidates, benefiting everyone.
  • Unconscious bias remains a significant challenge; ensuring all staff receive unconscious bias training and creating diversity across interview panels has proved very successful.
  • Remember that proactive career development for everyone (through investment in proper feedback and appraisal systems) will enable agencies to identify, retain and progress all the potential superstars of the future - not just those who put themselves forward.