How can the marketing industry drive inclusivity?

Discussing Pride month with our team, many of us feel that marketing agencies and the UK creative industry are open-minded and considered ‘safe’ places for people who identify as LGBTQ+ to work and be accepted in. But, a bit of research later, and we were sadly proved otherwise. So to mark Pride month, we wanted to explore some of the narratives around LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the UK in 2021.   

It seems that we, like many advertising agencies, “suffer from the affliction of believing itself to be more progressive than it is” a Campaign article tells us. Stonewall, the biggest LGBTQ+ rights organisation in Europe, found in 2018 that more than a third of staff have hidden or disguised that they are non-binary at work (across all industries) in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination.

The need for an inclusive society marches on

A study by Karmarama and Gay Times revealed that in 2019 only 36% of 18-24 year olds identified as completely heterosexual, with 48% of the 2,052 respondents identifying as somewhere in between. Whilst this young age group could be seen as ‘experimenting’, these findings are a clear signal to all industries that workplaces will have to become more inclusive in the future, or risk losing talented people and facing discrimination proceedings.

The Karmarama study went on to find that the portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in advertising is seen as tokenistic, yet it is an important way of improving perceptions of the LGBTQ+ community and moving towards a much more inclusive society.

A key way to open up conversation and widespread understanding around big topics such as ‘what is ‘normal’ today?’ is through on-screen storylines. Autism and Alzheimer’s charities are amongst those that have seen huge success in changing public perception about the people they support, by working with TV and film companies. Through factual and dramatic portrayals which dispel myths and challenge stereotypes, Autism and Alzheimer’s is now much more understood and accepted by UK society.

TV, cinema and books have portrayed the lives of the LGBTQ+ community for a long time, with the 1967 documentary ‘Portrait of Jason’ being called ‘incendiary even by today’s standards’ by Stonewall! Today, championing LGBTQ+ characters on screen is becoming much more evident with this year’s ‘It’s A Sin’ mini-series having a big influence on a move away from “looking at LGBTQ+ people as a subculture [and more] as an integral part of a broader world”.

How can marketing agencies and marketers support LGBTQ+ inclusivity?

Last year Procter & Gamble investigated the representation of LGBTQ+ people in advertising and found:

  • non-LGBT+ consumers who are exposed to LGBT+ people in the media are more likely to be accepting and supportive of their issues
  • 80% of respondents of those exposed said they were supportive of equal rights for LGBT+ people when compared to the respondents who had not recently seen LGBT+ people in the media (70%)
  • media exposure makes people more comfortable with LGBT+ people in their daily lives, with 72% of respondents claiming to be comfortable learning a family member was LGBT+, compared to those who had not been exposed (66%).

These findings demonstrate that marketers can enable the drive for inclusivity in our society by featuring more LGBTQ+ people in campaigns, and Stonewall says we can be more inclusive employers too.

Stonewall provide the tools and training for any business of any size to become a place where every employee thrives. By putting anti-discrimination policies in place, educating the workforce on positive behaviour towards LGBTQ+ co-workers and embedding inclusion practices in the workplace, employers can attract and retain the best talent, build professional networks and attract thinking from a new perspective.

At ThinkOTB different life experiences, contrasting points of view, and challenging the ‘norm’ are worth their weight in gold! Our brand campaign centres on different perspectives and the value that our varied ways of thinking bring to the creative work we produce for our clients. While we’re not a Stonewall Diversity Champion yet, we’re always finding new ways and new people to keep our thinking fresh.

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