Diversity in professional services

Inclusive Thinking: The Role of Marketers in Increasing the Representation of Diversity in Professional Services

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Did you know that for the last decade, women have outnumbered men in high status professions?

Women are entering universities across the world in record numbers and today there are more university-educated women in the workforce than men. But there's a problem.

Women still lag behind men in pay and power.

This divide is a symptom of a much bigger issue, an issue which professional services marketing and BD professionals have the power to change: the Gender Say Gap.

What is the Gender Say Gap?

The Gender Say Gap is a term coined to highlight the invisibility of women and other diverse groups; as expert authorities in business and in public life.

Despite women being disproportionately the experts in the room, it seems that the female authorities are missing.

When we audit subject matter experts, women are still outnumbered up to 4:1 at conferences and up to 5:1 as media commentators and the Gender Say Gap has actually widened significantly during the pandemic.

But we can't simply blame the media and conference organisers for this increasing Gender Say Gap.

City University's Expert Women Project found that a key driver of widening say inequality is the expert or authorities that we choose to represent our organisations. As the purveyors of specialist knowledge - more than any other industry - professional services firms supply the experts.

What role do professional services marketers have to play?

As marketers, we have a particular responsibility to provide a diversity of experts on every subject, to conferences, media interviewers and careers fairs.

Not hearing from expert female and diverse leaders means we're only getting half the story.

As we seek to attract more diverse talent into sectors and roles where women and diverse professionals are underrepresented, we're missing out on a prime opportunity to shine a brighter spotlight on role models.

We have a diversity problem in the professions which takes many forms.

For example, for women, it's about progression. With an overwhelmingly female graduate intake, where are all the women at Partner level?

For professionals from a black and minority ethnic background, there are hurdles at every single stage. The Telegraph reported a couple of years ago that just 11 out of 3000, Big 4 Partners are black. We all need to play our part in doing something about this.

What do we really want people to think of when they imagine a Lawyer or an Accountant or a Management Consultant? What do we want kids to dream of being when they grow up?

Probably more than any other industry, professional services can therefore make a huge difference by increasing the diversity of the professions, but also by making diverse leaders seen and heard as the expert spokespeople that we choose to represent our organisations.

‘The Gender News Gap’

For some years now, my team at Man Bites Dog has been campaigning to close what we call The Gender Say Gap by increasing the representation of female and diverse thought-leading experts.

This year, we wanted to examine the other side of the representation equation, the media. We teamed up with Women in Journalism to conduct ground-breaking new research on The Gender News Gap.

This study - which was six months in the making - involved my team interviewing 1,200 male and female journalists and investigated the state of gender diversity in UK journalism and its impact on female journalists, the media, and more importantly, society more broadly.

It says it all that the ethnic diversity in journalism is so poor that even 1200 interviews wasn't a big enough sample size to enable segmentation by ethnicity.

When we embarked on this study, we wanted to see how far we had progressed towards gender equality. But what we found was that the gender gap in journalism stubbornly persists, and that we remain a really long way from representative gender balance in UK media.

Why this is important for Professional Services Marketing and BD.

Professional services marketing and BD leaders have a tremendous opportunity to help close The Say Gap and harness the full potential of diverse experts to ensure that society can benefit from their ideas and insights.

We need to think carefully about our marketing and BD content and the expert commentary we provide to the media.

Who do we choose to put forward as expert commentators? Who are we elevating as thought leaders, and how are we representing women and diverse groups in our marketing communications?

With your support, together we can really improve the representation of diversity in professional services and beyond by ensuring we elevate and amplify diverse voices to close the Say Gap.

To find out more about the Gender News Gap study, click here:

​About the author

Claire Mason is the CEO and Founder of global thought leadership consultancy, Man Bites Dog, specialising in developing future thinking for intelligent brands to position them as leaders in the next economy.

Find out more at: www.manbitesdog.com.

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