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IPA Census: More female agency leaders but gender and ethnicity pay gaps remain


Despite a rise in women taking up top jobs at agencies and a jump in the number of female staff, a new survey has revealed gender and ethnicity pay gaps are still an issue.

That’s according to The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) latest Agency Census, now in its 63rd year. 

Although it paints a “much improved snapshot of the industry”, the survey of 201 UK agencies between September 2022 and January highlights areas of improvement in employment and diversity trends emerging across marketing and advertising agencies.

“Now is the time to double down on our collective efforts by paying extra attention to the areas of fair pay, equal opportunity and creating inclusive, flexible workplace cultures which enable all underrepresented groups to thrive and reach their full potential,” said Leila Siddiqi, Associate Director Diversity, IPA.

According to the study, 37.5% of women are in C-suite leadership roles which is up by 12% from the 33.5% recorded in 2021.

The level of ethnic diversity in member agencies has increased too, with the share of individuals from a non-white background in C-suite positions accounting for 11.2% of employees, a considerable rise of 58% from the 7.1% reported in 2021. 

Overall, the number of women working in member agencies has jumped by 24.1% with 14,411 in 2022 from an estimated 11,612 in 2021 meaning women now account for 54.8% of the total workforce and men account for 44.8%. However, only 6.5% of employees across agencies are over the age of 50, with an average age of 34.4 years in 2022.

With what appears to be a positive picture with more female leaders running agencies, the IPA’s survey revealed there is still a pay gap of 17.4% in favour of men but this has improved from the 23.3% recorded in 2021. 

A further split shows the gender pay gap is considerably higher in creative, marketing and digital agencies. The gender pay gap is 21.1%, down from 25.7% in 2021 whereas in media agencies the gender pay gap stands at 14.3%, an improvement on 18.9% in 2021.

An ethnicity pay gap of 21.1% in favour of white employees was highlighted in the findings too, remaining relatively unchanged from the 21.2% figure recorded in 2021. The findings state this reflects that employees have low levels of representation at the upper end of the seniority scale. 

Interestingly, this figure is higher in media agencies at 22.5% in comparison with creative, marketing and digital agencies where the figure was 16.1%.

“Media Agency Group recognises that the gender and ethnicity pay gap does exist, we strive consistently towards an inclusive and fair workplace. Testament to this is our rich and diverse workforce that has created an amazing team of people.

“We have taken advantage of the diversity training offered by the IPA, to further enhance inclusivity. We believe that this should be the case for all agencies; we hope the disparities highlighted in this census spur on change towards further inclusivity and progression within the industry,” said Janet Smith, Finance Manager at Media Agency Group.

Paul Bainsfair, Director General at IPA added: “These latest results represent a much healthier pace of improvement than in previous years and demonstrate that our concerted collective efforts to improve diversity and inclusivity within our industry are beginning to pay off. We must continue this great work to ensure our business is fully representative and inclusive for those working within it and attractive to those considering a career within the agency world.”

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