For the fourth year of our partnership with Campaign Asia, we looked beyond gender issues to understand the broader inequalities that are holding people back in the media, marketing and advertising industry in the region. We surveyed hundreds of marketing communications professionals for their candid views, and the report is a bleak insight into the frustrations many in the industry face around gender, race and mental health. With the pandemic pushing diversity and inclusion further down the corporate agenda, the situation in the region has further deteriorated.
Inequality is deepening
The media and marketing industry have seen very little diversity and inclusion progress in Asia Pacific since the last four years. Despite the Diversity pledge for change that was made in 2017 by the media and marketing industry, gender and racial disparity in the workplace still exist and policies around diversity and inclusion have not improved. People feel that preconceived notions of their abilities are more prevalent now than before.
Gender inequality continues to rise
The levels of gender inequality in Asia Pacific remain discouraging. Women continue to feel that people have preconceived notions of their ability based on their gender, are under pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, and generally feel like they are not treated as equals. Men are more respected by top management and women are missing out on opportunities.
Judged more by race, less by what they do
Perhaps race has always been top-of-mind for the industry, but it’s been brought to the forefront this year with the aid of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. More people speak out to say that they are judged by race this year, when it comes to respect from the top management. The need to conform to certain ways of working and behaving was raised repeatedly as one of the central problems impacting racial bias.
Inequality taking a toll on mental health
The current situation where we are going backwards on diversity and inclusion is even further exacerbated by the pandemic, and we see mental and physical well-being a big concern. Mental health is affected even more by gender and racial disparity at the workplace. Employees from diverse backgrounds can face lack of representation, unconscious bias, and other stressors that impact their mental health. On top of that, asking for help and recognising a problem in the first place is often stigmatised in the region.
The time for change is now
The most important thing is to acknowledge the urgency to change and act on it now. We need to shift from raising unconscious bias awareness to systematically embedding diversity and inclusion as a business imperative to ensure future growth and success. Inclusion and fairness in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Companies who invest in a diverse and inclusive talent pool are in a better position to recover faster and stronger from the crisis.