On the back of shocking research that shows the 34% of women and 9% of men working in advertising have experienced sexual harassment, the Advertising Association, WACL (the Women’s Advertising Club of London) and NABS (National Advertising Benevolent Society – the UK charity concerned with the well being of ad industry employees) have published a new code of conduct around sexual harassment in the workplace.
is a clear and inclusive policy designed to help anyone and any sort of business working in the advertising industry to clarify their understanding of what sexual harassment is and what responsibilities employers have and what sort of processes should be put in place.
The code was devised after an extensive piece of research, involving 3580 people working across creative agencies, media agencies and brands. The headline stat was that 26% of people working in the industry have been sexually harassed and of those, 83% did not officially report it. A shocking 10% of respondents who had reported sexual harassment said that it directly contributed to them leaving or losing their job. However, what also became apparent during the research process was that there was a staggering degree of uncertainty and confusion around the issue – hence the need for a codified, industry-wide approach.
“Firstly and most importantly, it [the code] gives a very clear definition of what sexual harassment is, because one of the big findings from the survey was that people were not actually sure,” explains Kerry Glazer, President of NABS, outgoing President of WACL and CEO of the AAR. “They might have experienced some unwanted sexual behaviour but they were not sure whether they’d been harassed or not.”
The research forms a quantified baseline by which the industry can judge progress on the issue – and also provides hard numbers to those in the industry reluctant to take action or accept the extent of the problem. However, the qualitative aspect of the research also uncovered some shocking personal stories.
“We were overwhelmed with the response,” says Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association. “Clearly we were tapping into something that people wanted to give their views on. Particularly in the open-ended questions, there were pages and pages and pages. Only a couple of people doing the research have seen these answers and we want to protect confidentiality and so on, but some people poured their hearts out. The people who did read the verbatims did find some very distressing stories in those. That just makes the code all the more important and urgent.”
The #timeTo code is designed to be as inclusive as possible, and contains information and support for anyone working in the industry, regardless of whether they’re employer, employee or freelancer, client or supplier. What’s more, it’s not just about giving guidance for people who may have been subject to or experience sexual harassment, but those concerned about their own behaviour.
While some individual companies and agencies have been undergoing a bit of soul searching and implementing their own policies and processes for dealing with sexual harassment, Stephen argues that a cohesive industry-wide approach is key.
“I’m sure lots of companies have been reflecting on their own policies particularly in response to the Harvey Weinstein stuff, but one of the benefits of doing it as an industry is that you’ve got such a highly mobile workforce with people moving from business to business. You want a sense that wherever you go, wherever your career takes you, that the same high standards apply,” says Stephen. That’s particularly relevant as the freelance workforce across the industry grows.
In fact, the code also includes guidance about relationships with third parties – whether they’re suppliers, clients, freelancers or customers. Kerry hopes that at some point, the code will become integrated into contracts in order to prevent people exploiting their position of power – though for now that’s more of an ambition for the future. ISBA, the association for advertisers has thrown their support behind the initiative too and will be working to encourage their members to adopt the code.
“It is very much about where there is potential of abuse for power and that doesn’t just sit with brands. Agencies can be customers in exactly the same way where they’re buying services. So, it’s the dynamic where there is some form of power imbalance between the two parties, where there is potential for it to occur,” says Kerry.
At launch, 20 agencies have signed up to #timeTo and by the end of the year, they hope that number will have reached 200. And, moreover, the team at the Advertising Association are happy to share their code and findings with industry associations in other markets – they are keen to have an open and collaborative approach to tackling the issue.
To find out more, download the code and get involved, head to the #timeTo website
Companies and Associations endorsing the TimeTo Code
3. Advertising Association
4. BBH London
7. Direct Marketing Association
8. Havas London
12. Lucky Generals
And we are pleased to announce that Little Black Book will also be endorsing and signing up to the #timeTo code.