WPP: More women senior managers but mostly white

WPP: More women senior managers but mostly white

Credit: WPP

WPP’s workforce diversity report for 2020 reveals widespread underrepresentation that becomes increasingly marked in upper management. The world’s largest advertising group remains overwhelmingly white, despite commitments to create a more racially and ethnically diverse workplace.

WPP employs around 100,000 people worldwide, however the diversity data mostly pertains to its U.S. workforce.

White employees make up 68.9% of its overall workforce in 2020. Asians make up the second largest group, at 12%, followed by Hispanic/Latino employees making up 9.9% and Black/ African American making up only 6.5%, according to the diversity report.

The differences in diversity become starker at the “management” level. In 2020, WPP reported 80.9% of senior/executive-level managers were white, with Asians at only 6.9%, and Hispanic/Latinos at 6.4%. Black/African American employees were the least represented group, accounting for only 3.9% of the workforce at that level.

WPP employees at the “professional” level in 2020 were the most diverse compared to other levels, with 65.4% white, 15.3% Asian, 9.3% Hispanic or Latino and 6.7% Black or African American.

WPP racial diversity
WPP Sustainability Report 2020

Half of senior managers are women

Things look better in terms of gender diversity, even though the company admits that much work remains. 51% of WPP’s senior managers are women, slightly increased from 50% in 2019, while the proportion of women in executive leadership roles increased to 40% from 37%. At Board level, the proportion of women is 43%, compared with 40% in 2019. 

“We aim to reach parity at all levels. We were ranked tenth by the Hampton-Alexander Review’s FTSE 100 ranking for women on boards and included as an industry leader in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index for the third year in a row,” the company says. “UK gender pay gap narrowed between 2019 and 2020, but for as long as there is any gap, we cannot be satisfied.”

WPP gender diversity
WPP Sustainability Report 2020

Racial equity commitments

In June 2020, WPP made a number of commitments to advance racial equity. “While we have made some good progress towards these commitments, we recognise there is still much work to do,” the company notes in its diversity report.

WPP says it is launching new policies, such as tying annual bonus plans for leadership to hitting diversity and inclusion goals. It also says it is expanding recruiting to HBCUs, diverse groups and other talent pipelines.

“We have acknowledged that we need to improve ethnicity representation at all levels of the Company, especially at senior and leadership levels. We launched our diverse slate policy in 2020 in the UK and United States as one concrete step towards this goal and have undertaken a review of our hiring practices and policies to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are systematically embedded throughout.”

The company plans to invest $30 million over three years to fund inclusion programmes within WPP and to support external organisations. As part of this commitment, it is also offering an employee donation match programme up to $1,000 per person, to a total of $1 million. “We will match personal donations by employees to a vetted list of non-profit organisations in support of their commitment to advance racial equity, develop talent from underrepresented groups and address issues that affect racially marginalised groups.”


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