'The Gender Pay Crisis': New Adland Census Identifies Pay Gap of 33%



In December 2021, Advertising Council Australia (ACA) contracted Kantar to run an Australian version of their international D&I survey, to help benchmark our industry. Presented as the Create Space Census (1), it surveyed 2,652 respondents from a range of advertising, PR, comms and media agencies, with the largest group being full service agencies (59%).


The comprehensive results were shared in mid-July 2022, and Mavens was interested to learn what the data would show regarding the experiences of women in advertising.


The biggest reveal? A whopping gender pay gap of 33%.


For those who may not be familiar with the term, the gender pay gap shows the difference between the average earnings of men and women (Workplace Gender Equality Agency). Australia’s national pay gap is 13.8%.


Interestingly, the Create Space Census pay gap of 33% is the highest reported pay gap for the advertising industry. ACA member data (2) indicates a gender pay gap of 21.6%, while WGEA reports a gap of 24.4% for advertising services (3).


Whichever way you skin it, the ad industry is facing a gender pay crisis. Women are being severely undervalued and under-remunerated for the work that they do.


This begs the question, just which women are being so vastly underpaid? Is it juniors? Mums? Women of colour? Or does the gap get bigger the higher up the ranks women go? The Census report acknowledges that this gap is 'driven by women occupying more junior and middle management roles, and working part time, as well as bias in hiring and promotion.' But Mavens would love to see an enquiry into our industry’s gender pay gap that answers these questions in more detail, especially around bias negatively impacting women minorities. In the meantime, we’ve looked at some further findings from the recent Census to identify possible causes for this disparity.


Too many junior women


The Census showed our industry has a high number of women at junior levels (70%) – which demonstrates we’re trying to bring more women in at the bottom. However, the higher up the ranks we go, the more women drop away. And having this many junior women could be contributing to such a high pay gap. It’s one reason why pay gaps are common in male-led, top-heavy businesses: the men are the ones taking home big pay packets.


We need to add more women heavy-weights to the payroll to balance this out, and hire juniors of all genders equally.



Not enough older women role models


74% of Census respondents were under 44, which indicates ageism. We also learned women over 45 make up just 15% of our industry (compared to 18% of men). Where are the older women – the strong, experienced leaders that young women could be looking up to?


Not enough creative heavyweights


The study found that our industry is female-dominated. Specifically, 58% women. And that at executive management level, we currently have 46% women. However, no clear breakdown was shared for creative leadership. Rather, the survey grouped ‘creative and design’ into one, which delivered a finding of 44% women.


Mavens believes that there is a distinction between creative and design, with 'creatives' (art directors and copywriters) often paid more and promoted into highly valued creative leadership roles.


For example, the Aquent Salary Comparison Tool, which records salary data from Australian users, noted a female digital designer in Melbourne (at a small to medium sized agency) would earn a median of $75,000 excluding tax and super. While an art director of the same profile and level earns over $88,000 (4).

Of course, this open-source data is speculative, but without the data that’s about all we can can do.


Representation of women in creative leadership is is extremely important as we are a creative industry, and there is much work to be done in this area.


Mums working part time


56% of women with children believe parental leave has negatively impacted their careers (Create Space Census), which indicates there is work to be done around parental leave policies and workplace flexibility. We need to make sustainable jobs for parents – especially mums and single parents of whom 80% are women (ABC Census 2021).


It’s also worth noting that more women in part-time roles could be a contributor, because part-timers work less and therefore earn less. We need to ensure dads have equal opportunities when it comes to parental leave, so that women aren’t siphoned into part time roles as primary carers, and families can make decisions that are right for their circumstances.


Deciding who works and who stays home shouldn’t be a gendered decision.



Intersectional challenges


While the challenges of intersectionality were touched on – it was stated that women from an ethnic minority are affected most with the lowest sense of belonging and the highest career challenges – more data could have been broken down by gender to highlight how intersectionality is affecting women, especially women of colour and women with disabilities.


This might indicate the pay gap hits women minorities the hardest, and that we should be addressing their experiences with the most urgency.


Garden variety misogyny


One need only glance at Mavens’ 2020 Gender Diversity Study to see the scale and impact that everyday microagressions and misogyny have had on women in advertising, including those in senior leadership. We aren’t accusing anyone but remember – unequal pay on the basis of sex is illegal (Sex Discrimination Act 1984).


It’s 2022 and any gender pay gap (let alone 33%) is totally unacceptable. Women need to demand their worth, and organisations need to take responsibility and band together to tackle the gender pay crisis head on.


Read our tips on how to get a pay rise at any stage in your career here.


Agencies can use WGEA's free Gender Pay Gap Calculator here, and access the Create Space Hub to download the Census Report as well as free tools and resources to tackle inequality.



1. Create Space 2021 Census Results & Report, Advertising Council Australia (ACA)

2. Advertising Council Australia Salary Survey data March 2022

3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Data based on full time remuneration, Advertising Services companies, n=15,606 November 2021

4. Data current as of 16/7/2022