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The “f**king debate” is far from over

The “f**king debate” is far from over
IPA President Tom Knox on why change cannot be achieved overnight.

It’s all too tempting to join the chorus of derision that has been heaped on Kevin Roberts since his notorious interview in Business Insider, which has resulted today in his resignation.

This is not about him personally but it is about what he said – , why he’s wrong and what the IPA is doing about it.

His most notable quote is: “Edward de Bono once told me there is no point in being brilliant at the wrong thing - the fucking debate is all over”.

Let’s be absolutely clear: the debate is nowhere near over.

I know it’s terribly unfashionable in these post-brexit, ‘post truth’ times, but we should start with some facts.

Thanks to the IPA’s Gender/BAME survey, published at the beginning of this year, we have an accurate picture of the splits by gender (and ethnicity) across types of agencies, departments and seniority.

The key headline is that 26.8% of staff in creative roles in the IPA’s biggest agencies are female. Given that over 50% (50.5%) of staff within these agencies are female, this must be addressed.

So the IPA has set some targets for 2020. These include the target that by then 40% of the senior people in agencies will be women. In other words, even in four years’ time this will still be a live issue and we still will have work to do..

Change cannot be achieved overnight but by setting a benchmark and targets the IPA has made a start and Adam&Eve DDB’s ‘Make the Leap’ initiative, which supports this target has been signed up to by 34 companies. Given that it is a simple mechanism to let your clients and staff see your agency is committed to putting an end to the status quo, I would encourage more agencies to sign up now.

I started raising this issue as part of my agenda as IPA President and the number of initiatives being taken by the IPA – which are attracting attention from as far a field as Australia -to address the urgent need for greater diversity has heartened me.

These include drawing on the key learnings from the IPA’s many diversity initiatives like the Women of Tomorrow Awards and the World Wise Women event, and supporting industry initiatives like the Great British Diversity Experiment and Creative Equals. And, later this Autumn we will be launching a new diversity initiative which will provide comprehensive support to our agencies to help meet these goals.

Mark Ritson’s thoughtful piece in Marketing Week rightly makes the point that for white males in positions of authority it requires an effort of empathy and humility to really understand the myriad ways in which women may feel discriminated against.

Far from the debate being over, it’s really only just beginning and the vast majority of white middle-aged men know it and welcome it.


Last updated 03/08/2016

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