WPP CEO Mark Read has labelled figures that show just 2.2 per cent of the company’s management are black as something “we are not proud of”.
On Friday, the UK-based holding company released workforce diversity data as part of its commitment to accelerate change in its boardrooms in the face of the Black Lives Matters movement.
The numbers, reported on US industry site AdWeek, were taken from 2018 – the most recent available – and show WPP employees who identify as black, African American or Hispanic are underrepresented at all management levels.
The data didn’t include any Australian figures and B&T has sought comment from WPPAUNZ on the numbers.
Commenting on the findings, Read said in a statement: “We have a huge amount of work to do. We are not proud of these numbers, and they demonstrate the scale of the task ahead of us.”
Following the damning numbers, Read has promised the world’s biggest media company will work on a “more robust, centralised system of gathering and reporting ethnicity data” which it said it would publish annually in a Sustainability Report.
Other actions announced included:
• WPP would adopt the 12 actions in the “Call for Change” open letter from 600 & Rising in which black ad professionals demanded urgent action to advocate for black people in the industry.
• WPP would match employee donations to anti-racicm charities up to $US1 million.
• The holding company would launch a NextGen Leaders program in partnership with 300 colleges and universities to attract a more diverse pool of graduates.
• In the US, WPP has launched mandatory anti-racism and inclusion training that focus on the challenges of its black employees face.
• The company has also formed an Inclusion Council. In a statement, it was described as giving “a voice to under-represented groups at the highest level of WPP, recommend programs, policies and initiatives that will systemically create more inclusive and diverse workplaces, advise on leadership succession, remove barriers to progress and help set aspirational targets for elevating talent”.
Touting the merits of the Inclusion Council, Read said in a LinkedIn post last month: “The global Inclusion Council will not be a siloed HR initiative but the basis for a set of commitments that will apply throughout the company and for which leaders will be held accountable.
“It will build on our experience with the UK Inclusion Board, which was established two years ago by our UK Country Manager Karen Blackett, who is also the UK Government’s Race at Work champion.
“What is equally clear, though, is that voicing support and acknowledging the issue is not sufficient. Our focus needs to be on action – and not just today.
“Another comment that hit home was this: ‘Brief pulses of outrage aren’t enough. We need everyone to be committed, consistent, persistent for this to work. We can’t go quiet when the news cycle stops,” Read penned.
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