Progress against our anti-racism commitments
On 17 June 2020, WPP announced a series of commitments to tackle racism and invest in Black talent.
Below is a summary of the progress we have made against these commitments and the investment we continue to make.
COMMITMENT #1: We will take decisive action on each of the 12 points in 600 & Rising’s “Call for Change” open letter to the industry from more than 1,200 Black advertising professionals; complete a fundamental review of our hiring, retention, promotion and development practices; and publish our racial diversity data.
1. Make a specific, measurable, and public commitment to improve Black representation at all levels of agency staffing, especially senior and leadership positions.
WPP has acknowledged that we need to improve Black representation at all levels of the company, especially at senior and leadership levels. We launched our diverse candidate slate policy as one concrete step towards this goal and have undertaken a review of our hiring practices and policies to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are systematically embedded throughout (details below in points 5, 6 and 8). In 2022, we appointed a new Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer, highlighting our commitment to sustained momentum.
Our network of DE&I leads, along with our other champions of DE&I across our operating companies, also continue to help us drive and accelerate the change we need to see.
2. Track and publicly report workforce diversity data on an annual basis to create accountability for the agency and the industry.
For the second consecutive year, we published our workforce diversity data for the US and UK in our Sustainability Report.
It is not a legal requirement to publish this data, but we are doing so in the interest of transparency and to drive accountability, and we will continue to do so on an annual basis.
The story our data tells is clear: we still have a great deal of work to do. To deliver on our commitments, and remain focused on actions that make an impact, we have embedded DE&I goals and best practices into everything we do. The leaders of WPP’s global agency networks have each signed up to these actions and will be held accountable for delivering progress against them within their businesses.
We will continue to focus on the hiring, retention, and promotion of people from under-represented ethnic groups at all levels across WPP.
3. Audit agency policies and culture to ensure the environment we work in is more equitable and inclusive to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
In 2021, we launched our first global company-wide survey, with more than 43,000 participants across more than 100 countries. This showed what our people want most from WPP: fulfilling careers, where they grow and discover new ways of working and learning, the opportunity to contribute to inspiring work that creates impact for their clients and a sense of belonging at a company they are proud to be part of.
In June 2022, we are launching our second global, company-wide survey. This refreshed survey will continue to provide people with the chance to give honest, unfiltered feedback on everything about their experience as an employee within the WPP network.
We look forward to learning the results of the next All In Survey. As history has shown, these findings serve as the impetus for transformational initiatives – from our Inclusion as a Skill learning experience to our Quarterly DE&I Updates.
4. Provide extensive bias training to HR employees and all levels of management.
WPP has a mandatory online training programme which all our people (including freelancers working for more than four weeks) are required to complete on an annual basis. The programme comprises five modules: How We Behave, Business Integrity, Safer Data, Sustainability and Belonging.
In addition, WPP’s Business Integrity team organises in-person and video call training sessions, townhalls and workshops throughout the year on topics thought necessary or relevant to our people.
Our Inclusion as a Skill learning experience is designed to upskill every people manager across the organisation with the behaviours and practices needed to build an inclusive culture. After a pilot programme in 2021 with 1,000 participants, we are iterating the curriculum and expanding the programme, making it available to all 30,000 managers across WPP globally, starting in Q4 2022.
Depending on societal events, WPP hosts Safe Rooms to ensure employees feel comfortable addressing an issue in a safe space, as well as raising awareness of unconscious biases.
5. Extend agency outreach to a more diverse representation of colleges, universities and art schools.
We have expanded our talent recruiting platforms to include over 300 sites, including HBCU alumni networks and other diverse groups.
We also partnered with Handshake, a posting platform that allows sharing events and open roles with colleges across the US. Handshake allows WPP to quickly connect with HBCUs, HSI, and will grow to include more tribal colleges in the future as we expand our outreach to native communities.
To embed DE&I into our hiring processes, we launched our diverse candidate slate policy in the US, UK and APAC. Our recruiters are actively seeking to present diverse candidates to their Hiring Managers by ensuring that:
- Roles are marketed and accessible to candidates from diverse backgrounds.
- Under-represented groups are targeted, for example, through marketing to professional networks for those groups.
- Job descriptions are created in an inclusive way that doesn’t exclude or deter certain groups from applying.
We are already seeing improvements in our senior executive diverse hiring as a result of this policy.
6. Expand residencies and internship programmes to candidates with transferable skills who may not have taken a traditional educational path toward advertising.
In June 2020, we launched a new 10-week virtual learning series for recent graduates and early-career talent from diverse backgrounds, called NextGen Leaders.
Now in its third year, the programme has tripled in size, with the 2022 cohort consisting of over 2,700 participants from over 70 countries across three verticals, NextGen Leaders, NextGen Health, and a pilot programme, in partnership with TikTok, NextGen Creators.
We have expanded relationships with organizations such as The LAGRANT Foundation and The One Club for Creativity, both of which focus on supporting young Black talent in our industry.
In the UK, we partnered with Brixton Finishing School to launch the UNinvisibility Project, which aims to offer opportunities for a future-proofed, digital career to mid-life women and women of colour who are traditionally under-represented in this field.
We have partnered with Adfellows, sponsored by Verizon, a fellowship programme designed to address the gap in diversity in our industry by creating a space for new players. In 2021, six AdFellows were hosted across Ogilvy and Landor & Fitch.
7. Create, fund, and support employee resource groups (ERGs) for Black employees.
We have historically had a vibrant global ERG community, including dozens of active ERGs across our companies. WPP Roots is a professional network run by individuals who are passionate about championing greater ethnic and cultural diversity within the advertising industry, our agencies and our work.
In 2021, we created an ERG “best practices” handbook to empower our network leaders, support ERG formation, and inspire cross-agency collaboration.
In 2022, we launched a global ERG directory to connect our 200+ ERGs across the globe. In tandem with the directory, we established our ERG Best Practices (ERGBP) community, a space for the WPP network’s global ERG leaders, executive sponsors, and DE&I professionals to build community, exchange best practices, and activate around shared ERG objectives.
8. Invest in management and leadership training, as well as mentorship, sponsorship, and other career development programmes for Black employees.
We have implemented and are expanding several learning and development opportunities for our employees of colour, including:
- Our year-long Elevate sponsorship programme is designed to provide tools to support Black women in their career growth, personal development, and wellbeing. 20% of participants from the first cohort were either promoted or received a raise within eight weeks. In 2022, we expanded Elevate into the UK.
- In 2022, we launched Accelerate Mentorship in the US, to better support our early Black talent and give them access to people they might not otherwise have.
9. Require all leadership to be active participants in company diversity and inclusion initiatives and tie success in those initiatives to bonus compensation.
To underline the importance of our commitments and to ensure accountability, we have committed to including diversity and inclusion goals in the annual bonus plans of our leadership across WPP. These are included within bonus plans, and progress made against those goals will be reviewed on a regular basis.
10. Create a diversity and inclusion committee, made up of Black and NBPOC employees, to inform the development of our policies.
Our Global Inclusion Council, established to advise WPP’s CEO and Executive Committee on appropriate DE&I goals, recommend new systems and strategies, and identify barriers to progress, continues to meet on a monthly basis.
We also created a Black Leadership Forum to bring a sense of community to senior creative Black leaders across the WPP network.
11. Establish a diversity review panel to stem the spread of stereotypes in creative work and ensure offensive or culturally insensitive work is never published.
We established our Diversity Review Panel in January 2021 for our people to raise any concerns regarding negative stereotypes in our work so we can ensure an inclusive approach to creativity.
12. Introduce a wage equity plan to ensure that Black women, Black men and people of colour are being compensated fairly.
We have started to build the plan and engaged third party specialists to work with us on this.
COMMITMENT #2: We will use our voice to fight racism and advance the cause of racial equity in and beyond our industry.
Because of our platform and voice, WPP can also spark change far beyond our company through our work for clients and communities.
We have established a Diversity Review Subcommittee whose mandate is to prevent negative and harmful stereotypes in creative work and to help us ensure that we never publish offensive or culturally insensitive work. The subcommittee is chaired by Lindsay Pattison, our Chief Client Officer, consisting of members across EMEA, LATAM, North America and APAC, all of whom are also members of the Global Inclusion Council. In July 2020, we issued WPP’s Commitment to Inclusiveness, Diversity and Anti-Racism in our Work, which includes our commitment to ensure that we do not perpetuate harmful, negative stereotypes in the content we create.
In collaboration with UniWorld, we created the Inclusive Marketing Playbook in December 2020 to enable WPP teams to put inclusive marketing principles and best practice front and centre when it comes to communications, marketing and new business projects.
These actions – combined with the creativity of all our people – helps us leverage our scale and influence to advance racial justice.
Advancing racial equity through our work
Below are a few of the highlights – visit www.wpp.com/featured/work for more examples.
- WPP’s Mindshare worked with Dove Men+Care on the Commit to C.A.R.E. (Care About Racial Equity) campaign, amplifying the voices of some of the most recognisable Black athletes today. Partnering with 11 NBA stars, the content series explored how racial injustice impacts them, affects their families, and fuels their passion for activism – changing perceptions of Black men.
- WPP agencies supported the launch of the Black Equity Organisation with pro bono work, from the branding a visual identity of the organisation to the campaign’s launch video.
- WPP’s Grey and Cartwright created P&G’s The Choice.
- WPP supported the launch of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation with more than £1.3m in donated media via GroupM and our media partners.
- P&G’s Widen the Screen, created by Grey, aims to support Black creators and show the full picture of Black life.
- Girl Up wanted to capture the historic event of Kamala Harris’s inauguration, as seen through the eyes of young girls across America so Ogilvy teamed up to create Today We Rise, a film edited in record time and launched online just five hours after the ceremony.
- Wunderman Thompson Brazil worked with Avon to launch This Is My Color, a campaign to introduce a new cosmetic colour palette inclusive of the widest possible range of Black skin tones in Brazil.
- In partnership with Allyship & Action, Ogilvy has donated talent, time, and media to help raise awareness about the issue of maternal mortality in the black community.
COMMITMENT #3: We will invest $30 million over three years to fund inclusion programmes within WPP and to support external organisations. The pledge is across three pillars.
Pillar 1 supports equity and inclusion initiatives within WPP. Improving retention, growth and promotion strategies for our talent of colour is a core focus. Our first WPP-wide investment in this area is focused on broadening access to a more diverse talent pipeline through formal partnerships with the following organisations in the US and the UK:
- The One Club for Creativity
- The LAGRANT Foundation
- Brixton Finishing School
- Rare Recruitment
Pillar 2 utilises the power of our influence through the creative use of media value and pro bono work. Also included is an employee donation match programme up to $1,000 per person per year, to a total of $1 million. WPP will match personal donations by employees to non-profit organisations in support of our commitment to fighting racism, developing talent from under-represented groups and addressing issues that affect Black communities. WPP employees can visit insideWPP for further information.
Pillar 3 focuses on initiatives, partially funded through the corporate centre, that will create meaningful and lasting change to advance racial equity in our industry as well as in wider parts of society. Learn more about the 14 projects that have been supported so far.