2SLGBTQ+ advertisers still feel discrimination

Research from PrideAM suggests a significant portion of advertisers don't feel secure disclosing their identities.

A new report from PrideAM has presented some troubling findings for people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the marketing and brand communications industries, including that they face higher levels of discrimination in the workplace than their straight and cisgender peers.

The Queer Lived Experience Report 2022 has been released in the wake of Pride month and bases its findings on responses to the 2020 ICA Talent Census Report, which itself polled 2,000 staff from ICA member agencies.

Its findings call to question the perception that advertising and communications are progressive by nature, with 11% of LGBTQ+ respondents saying they have experienced homophobia in the workplace, while people who identify as such are also 75% more likely to experience sexual harassment at work.

In addition, 33% of respondents skipped the question, “Are you out?” The report states that this could indicate an absence or deficiency of emotional security in feeling able to disclose such information, including to a public but anonymous source.

“The exposure and familiarity with discrimination is an indicator as to why we have gaps in representation in our industry,” says Deven Dionisi, director of marketing strategy and insights at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and one of the report’s co-authors.

The report also raises concerns about representation, specifically in senior positions within the industries. While the advertising industry does have above-average representation of LGBTQ+ individuals compared to the Canadian population as a whole, those professionals are younger and 19% of them describe their current economic status as “low income,” 29% above their non-LGBTQ+ peers.

In terms of career advancement, LGBTQ+ professionals are 31% more likely to be in entry-level positions at agencies than their straight and cisgender peers, and 29% less likely to be department leads or directors, as well as 31% less likely to be executives.

“We have more representation than in the general community, but the opportunity is for more LGBTQ+ folk to be agency leaders and to really have positions of power,” says Sam Archibald, CD and owner of creative agency Shortstop and another of the report’s co-authors.

The report is seen as a “stepping stone,” according to Jerry Jarosinski, senior director of CRM strategy at Klick, who also co-authored it. It appeals to the industry to “make positive and impactful changes” for LGTBQ+ professionals via education, policies and practices. It also encourages LGBTQ+ professionals and their allies to connect with PrideAM and assist in the next stages of its industry research.

“We will definitely look at a follow-up study to dig deeper into these issues and also to recruit more individuals to provide results,” says Jarosinksi.