Brunswick commits to greater equality

The Brunswick Group has set itself ambitious targets to improve gender equality and diversity – with chief executive Neal Wolin warning that progress is 'non-negotiable' – in the agency’s first annual global diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) report.

Neal Wolin, chief executive of the Brunswick Group, has pledged to improve DEI
Neal Wolin, chief executive of the Brunswick Group, has pledged to improve DEI

The new DEI report reveals that while women make up 52 per cent of the Brunswick workforce in the UK, they account for just 38 per cent of partners – a figure the agency wants to reach 45 per cent by the end of 2024.

The majority of its employees in the UK are white, with 23 per cent minority ethnic – which Brunswick defines as “any persons or group of individuals who self-identify as not White British”.

Notably, the agency does not have a single black partner in the UK, and just 12 per cent of its partners are minority ethnic.

Brunswick is aiming for three per cent of partners to be black and 17 per cent minority ethnic by the end of 2024.

The report, released last week, also highlights how the agency’s business services teams in the UK “are more racially and ethnically diverse than Client Handlers”, with more than 30 per cent “identifying as Minority Ethnic” compared to 18 per cent of client handlers.

There are also differences when it comes to gender. Brunswick's gender pay gap was 17 per cent in 2019, down from 26 per cent the year before. Its 2020 UK gender pay gap report will be published later this year.

The DEI report states: “In our London office, the pay gap exists largely as a result of the structural imbalance between men and women and the roles they hold within the business.”

Bigger picture

The targets being set for Brunswick’s UK operation are part of the group's wider global ambition. It has set itself a target of having at least one in four of its US and UK workforce from "underrepresented ethnicities" by the end of 2024.

It also aims to have greater equality at senior levels, with a goal of having women account for 50 per cent of partners globally by 2025, up from the current proportion of 38 per cent.

Neal Wolin, chief executive, said: “There are two things at the centre of Brunswick’s universe: our clients and our people. If we fail to take the lead on diversity, equity and inclusion, we fail them both. We must never fail our clients and we must never fail our people.”

He admitted that the DEI is a “priority on which we need to make further progress”.

Wolin pledged to take action in the coming months: “The bottom line is: making real progress on DEI in the next year is non-negotiable.”

Signs of change

There have been several changes at the agency over the past year, with all staff having completed unconscious bias training for the first time, and the appointment of Nicole Reboe as global head of DEI.

In the UK, the drive for greater equality and diversity is being led by partners Justine Harris and Paul Raeburn.

The report states that the performance of Brunswick staff on DEI issues “will be taken into account in annual appraisals.”

Challenges for the sector

The commitments made by Brunswick, the top-ranked agency in PRWeek's Top 150 UK PR consultancies 2021, come amid some worrying metrics for the sector.

One in five UK PR agencies employ no non-white staff, while almost four out of five have all-white boards, according to research released by PRWeek in May this year.

And the industry’s gender pay gap surged from 14 per cent in 2019 to 21 per cent in 2020. Average salaries for women are now £46,667 compared to the £59,080 paid to their male peers, according to the latest PRCA Census research.

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