When we set out a year and a half ago to publish our diversity data of U.S. employees, we emphasized progress over perfection; our goal was to commit to transparency, rather than hitting quotas, by publishing quarterly Make / Change reports. We knew that by taking such an approach, there would be times when these reports would reflect unmet challenges and setbacks in certain areas.
Who We Are
2021 was our first full calendar year of publishing quarterly reports. As we look back at our U.S. workforce in Q4, and 2021 as a whole, we’re pleased to note some meaningful progress in certain areas, like over half of new hires self-identifying as BIPOC, and an increased belief amongst BIPOC talent that our internal culture is more inclusive. But there are areas where we still have a long way to go to establish a truly equitable company. Like any business in the industry, we have struggled with significant attrition rates amidst the great resignation and an industry-wide “war for talent.”
Undoubtedly, these trends have hampered some of our EDI efforts, including a slight net drop in representation of women. At the same time, we recognize that we need to do more to meet these challenges.
Nearly four out of ten of our U.S. employees (39.4%) identify as BIPOC, representing an increase of 0.2 percentage points for Q4.
For context, AgencyDEI — which collects diversity information across 75 agencies which have published or submitted data — reports an agency average of 72% employees who identify as white across its most recently collected data.
As of Q4, out of R/GA’s U.S. talent:
60.6% identify as white (down 0.2 percentage points from Q3 )
13.2% identify as Asian (down 0.4 percentage points from Q3)
11.7% identify as Latine (up 0.5 percentage points from Q3
7.8% identify as Black (up 0.2 percentage points from Q3)
6.2% identify as two or more races (down 0.5 percentage points from Q3)
0.5% identify as American Indian (up 0.2 percentage points from Q3)
While women continue to represent more than half of U.S. talent overall at 52.8% (a small drop of 1 percentage point since Q3), they remain underrepresented in leadership roles. Women make up 70% of junior-level U.S. employees (a 1.7 percentage point decrease from Q3), but just 44.9% of senior-level roles (down 2.5 percentage points from since Q3) and 46.7% of executive-level roles (up 2 percentage points on the quarter).
People of color also remain underrepresented in more senior roles at R/GA. BIPOC representation in mid- and senior-level roles did increase slightly in Q4, although it dropped at the executive level: BIPOC-identifying talent made up 58.2% of junior-level employees in the U.S. (down 1.5 percentage points on the quarter); 46.2% of mid-level employees (up 1.4 percentage from Q3); 29.6% of senior-level employees (up 0.3 percentage points from Q3); and 26.7% of executive-level employees (down 3 percentage points from Q3).
Asian talent had the highest representation of any BIPOC identity at the junior level (16.4%, down 0.3 percentage points from since Q3), but represented only 2.9% of senior-level talent and 8% of executive talent (following an increase of 4.1 percentage points from since the end of Q3). Black employees also represented 8% of executive-level talent, but this reflected a drop of 1.2 percentage points on the quarter.
Like most companies across our industry, R/GA struggled with high attrition rates in the second half of 2021. Our rolling 12-month attrition rate as of the end of Q4 was 36.5%, an increase of 8.2 percentage points on the quarter.
The rolling 12-month attrition rate grew the most among women, rising 9.8 percentage points from Q3 to 39.1%.
Asian women saw the highest attrition rate among any group, at just over half (50.4%), an increase of 6 percentage points for the quarter. Women at the senior level represented another area of high attrition rates, rising 13.7 percentage points to 44.7%. While we work to stem the tide of attrition in general, we must ensure that we are paying particular attention to these groups. On a more positive note, BIPOC employees still had a lower attrition rate than talent overall, while increasing 6.1 percentage points for the quarter to 32.4 percent.
Despite this high rate of attrition, representation of women and BIPOC talent remained relatively flat at the agency, aided by our continued recruitment efforts. 52% of our new hires in 2021 were BIPOC talent, a one percentage point increase from Q3 to Q4.
Of note, Black employees represented 13.4% of new hires in 2021, a 2.5 percentage point increase since Q3, while Latine employees represented 14.1% of new hires, a 4.1 percentage point decrease for the quarter.
Women represented 54% of new hires YTD, a decrease of 3.5 percentage points from Q3. The vast majority of junior-level U.S. hires–82% in 2021–were women, feeding the existing gender imbalance in the junior talent pool.
On a more positive note, R/GA made significant strides in making our internal culture more inclusive. In our most recent employee survey, 88% of Black employees said they’re proud to work at R/GA, 79% said they can be their authentic selves at work, and 85% said they’d recommend R/GA as a great place to work. Our employees expressed confidence in R/GA’s EDI initiatives overall: 82% of our U.S. talent feel all employees receive equal and respectful treatment regardless of their inherent diversity, including race and ethnicity, while 76% of our U.S. employees would recommend R/GA as a good place to work for DEIBA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Accessibility).
In Q4, we held 11 listening sessions with our 6 culture collectives, CEO and CTO, sharing themes and opportunities from our engagement survey to evaluate progress, apply insights to future initiatives, and ensure we move beyond words into actions. We also developed client-project team EDI dashboards to track the diversity of teams working internally and externally on R/GA projects and hold us accountable on reaching balanced representation.
We’ve also made progress addressing systemic racism outside our own walls through evolving programs around racial discrimination in the startup space.
In recent months, we officially launched an R/GA program supporting BIPOC-run companies as part of our Make / Good equity initiative. The program helped Founderland receive $1M in funding from Google.org’s Impact Challenge for Women and Girls program in Q4. Make / Good’s program awarded grants from R/GA to nine companies in 2021, with a commitment to $10,000 in financial support across these grants. We also continued to grow the Coalition Venture network, launched this year to support BIPOC-founded start-ups as part of our venture capital arm, which closed the year having already helped 58 businesses.
What Still Needs to Change
An underrepresentation of BIPOC employees and women in leadership roles remains a key area where we need to improve through identifying internal candidates for promotions, as well as active recruitment. We also need to hire more men in junior roles to address a gender disparity at this level.
Disparities in promotions across gender and race/ethnicity in more senior roles is one contributing factor to a lack of progress around diversity in leadership — most significantly in executive-level promotions, with white employees representing 86% of such promotions in 2021, and over half of such promotions (57%) going to men. White employees were recipients of nearly three-quarters of senior-level promotions (74%, a 4 percentage point increase YOY), while the representation of women in promotions at this level fell 10 percentage points YOY to 47%. One area of progress was mid-level promotions, with nearly half of the recipients (49%) identifying as BIPOC, a 13 percentage point increase YOY, but similar progress must be made at the upper ranks of our company.
As we look to the year ahead, we face difficult conversations about the need for greater improvement to be a more equitable workplace. While 2021 was far from a normal year, presenting unique challenges to employee retention amidst the “mass resignation,” we also must face the possibility that previous approaches to drive greater equity are not enough. Meaningful progress will require both new solutions and further resources — with an emphasis on retaining talent and providing equitable opportunities for advancement. As always, we will turn to our people to understand the specific challenges they are facing, and for their perspective on the right path forward to a more equitable future at R/GA.