Terrible, mediocre and not great are words no creative director wants to hear in response to their big idea, and these are also words no CEO, HR manager or any other ad industry executive or employee should be comfortable with when people with disabilities describe an agency working environment. But that’s just what happened in recently shared findings from and industry employment survey conducted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. For employees with disabilities 17 percent of those surveyed agree the industry is terrible at providing equal opportunities to people with disabilities (compared to white males), and 29 percent felt it’s not great and 28 percent said it’s mediocre.
Other insights among respondents are that 74 percent of 4A’s members feel agencies are either mediocre or worse when it comes to hiring a diverse group of employees. Breaking down that 74 percent, 20 percent believe the industry is terrible, 29 percent said it’s not great at hiring diverse people and 25 percent responded with mediocre. Additionally, 50 percent feel that agency culture is still discriminatory, but it’s not as overt as before.
Greater inclusion of people with disabilities in advertising starts with better targeted recruiting efforts for people with disabilities in agencies and among advertisers. In creative and staff positions people with disabilities will be able to be internal champions not only for greater inclusion, but add their voices to best practices in portrayals of people with disabilities in the advertising.
Having people with disabilities on staff isn’t just a pity play. Shawna Berger, Director of Marketing and Communications at the US Business Leadership Network shared:
“Businesses that embrace disability inclusion have found there is a positive correlation between their profitability, employee morale and engagement. These businesses report lower turnover, better safety records, innovation and higher productivity among their employees with disabilities. For customer-facing companies, there is the side benefit of customer loyalty from America’s largest minority group, numbering 56.7 million Americans.”
Conferences such as the Forum on Workplace Inclusion, talent recruitment opportunities offered by Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0, and new international organizations such as the Global Alliance for Disability in Media & Entertainment are making progress encouraging hiring people with disabilities in the industry.
Tari Hartman Squire, CEO of EIN SOF Communication and Loreen Arbus, founder of the Loreen Arbus Foundation, spearhead Lights. Camera. Access 2.0 an initiative championing employment, visibility and access for people with disabilities in media, and this video shares more on that message.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and while that month may come and go, encouraging, fostering and supporting greater diversity and inclusion and people with disabilities in advertising should be an ongoing commitment.