Canadian marketers value diversity but observations and experiences vary widely: CMA survey

Apr 13, 2021

Canadian marketers are almost universal in their belief that diversity and inclusion are good for business, benefit everyone and show alignment with people and with the community, according to research released today by the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA). However, observations and experiences with discrimination vary significantly between men and women and between minorities and non-minorities.

“Hiring people from diverse backgrounds is the first step to addressing inequities,” says John Wiltshire, president and CEO, CMA. “Ensuring they are included, empowered, and mentored to share their perspectives and fully participate in the workplace is the next critical step.”

The report – Diversity and Inclusion in Canada’s Marketing Sector: CMA Research Findings 2021 – highlights the need for greater awareness and concrete action when it comes to inclusion. For example, while the vast majority (86%) of marketers believe that perspectives like theirs are included in decision-making, minority women (82%) are less likely to hold this view compared to non-minority men (95%). 

Similarly, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents have witnessed staff from diverse backgrounds being talked down to or ignored in meetings. But this awareness drops to 11% when asked of non-minority men and rises to 50% when asked of minority men.

A majority (63%) of respondents have noticed others being less engaged due to institutional, interpersonal, structural or internalized systems of discrimination, but less than half (49%) of non-minority respondents have observed this, compared to 77% of minority respondents. When asked if they had personally felt less engaged in the workplace due to systems of discrimination, the results were consistent: Just 17% of non-minority men have felt this way, compared to more than half of minority respondents (52% of women and 53% of men).

Despite these figures, many are concerned about speaking up: A majority (59%) of marketers agree that people don’t push for change because they don’t want to be seen as disruptive. This is especially true of minorities (66%) compared to non-minorities (53%).

The survey shows that a key to a more inclusive workplace is better diversity at the leadership level. Marketers at companies with diverse leadership are the most likely (72%) to feel engaged at work. Yet, this diversity has so far remained largely elusive, with just 23% of total respondents describing the senior ranks at their companies as well diversified. Only a slim majority (54%) note that there is a senior-level diversity role in their organizations, while less than half (48%) believe that members of BIPOC communities rise to the most senior positions. As well, a full 60% of marketers believe that Canadian experience and education are preferred by hiring organizations. 

“To create safer and stronger workplaces, we need more people with diverse backgrounds in senior roles. Period,” Wiltshire says.  

On an encouraging note, 85% of those surveyed reported that their organizations are making at least some effort to diversify their leadership and are taking such steps as: hiring talent from diverse communities (47%); creating diversity and inclusivity committees, taskforces, networks and/or affinity groups (43%); and developing formal diversity and inclusion training and management programs (40%). 

Most marketers cite barriers to diversifying leadership, with the top barrier being a perceived lack of skilled talent (32%). The CMA and its Working Group on Marketing Talent caution that this perception does not reflect the realities of the calibre or availability of marketers from diverse communities:

“When we discussed these results with our Working Group on Marketing Talent, we learned that there is no shortage of skilled diverse talent in the marketing sector; the problem stems from institutional and systemic inequalities in recruitment, hiring and retention practices that make it difficult for members of diverse communities to rise to senior levels.” says Sara Clodman, vice-president, public affairs and thought leadership, CMA. “Yet, diversity and inclusion are good for business, strengthening employee engagement and contributing to the bottom line. For these reasons, D&I should be viewed as a strategy, not just a program.”

Other highlights from the survey:

  • Nearly half (43%) of respndents have heard racial, ethnic or gender-based jokes at work.
  • Three-quarters of respondents state that their organization is either excellent or very good at making employees feel included, but this figure rises to 92% for non-minority men and drops to 63% when asked of minority women.
  • Ageism exists in the marketing sector, with 42% of marketers believing that people above a certain age have no chance at being hired or promoted. 
  • A full 100% of non-minority men believe their organization will take appropriate action in response to incidents of discrimination, compared to 75% of minority women. 

About the survey:

The research was conducted by RKI – an independent research company that follows the highest professional standards. The survey was deployed by the CMA, Ad Standards and nabs and remained in field over a six-week period to the end of January 2021. It was directed at marketers from agencies, brands, NFPs, the public sector, service providers and independent consultancies. A total of 425 usable responses were collected and analyzed by RKI. CMA and its distribution partners did not receive individual survey results. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.9%, 18 times out of 20.

About the Canadian Marketing Association:

The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) strengthens marketers’ significant impact on business in Canada. We provide opportunities for our members from coast to coast to develop professionally, to contribute to marketing thought leadership, to build strong networks across all economic sectors, and to shape positions advocated by the CMA to strengthen the regulatory climate for business success. Our Chartered Marketer (CM) designation signifies that recipients are highly qualified and up to date with best practices, as reflected in the Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics and Standards.

About RKI:

RKI: Research+Knowledge=Insight is a full service market research firm located in Toronto. Led by an innovative team of award-winning professionals, RKI focuses on content and media research, recently developing a number of high-profile reports in the areas of workplace diversity, equity and inclusion. Their area of expertise spans the complete gamut, from standard market research's qualitative and quantitative components, to projects designed to promote thought leadership and editorial/advertorial content placement.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Shane Madill, Kaiser & Partners Inc.,, 647.725.2520 x207




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