4As Malaysia driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion awareness as moral imperative and business priority

The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) is launching a series of initiatives for the advertising industry to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace and in its work product.

In 2021, the 4As celebrated 50 years of industry stewardship through generating impact, advocacy, and investing in talent.

In 2022, to kick off the next 50 years, the 4As sees DEI as a moral imperative, and way to do business, that must be addressed, working towards a human-centric future.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the business environment is about more than just gender, race, and ethnicity. It includes diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures, and disabilities.

“DEI is more than statistics, it must also be seen and felt, in the actions we take, the language we use, the way we interact, the places we present ourselves and the ways in which we open ourselves up to challenge. Agencies must show through words and actions that we are serious about delivering social good, and we must hold ourselves accountable for seeking out the voices too often ignored, and to listen and respond,” said Nizwani Shahar, 4As Vice President, mentor and industry partner with LeadWomen and UN Women.

“As a start, the composition of the 4As Council is also reflective of our ambition to represent a more diverse and inclusive industry – representing not just gender diversity but also ethnicity, age, agency setup, background and more,” added Nizwani.

Based on the recent survey conducted by independent consultancy R3 that reached out to over 200 South East Asian agencies, including 4As Malaysia members, the 4As has identified the following as the key issues that need to be addressed:

  1. Gender pay gap – we need to do our part in ensuring that agencies are being equitable with all employees, ensuring competitive market-rate salaries across genders.
  2. Unconscious bias in recruitment – equality is not just about the obvious and explicit, it also lives in the margins, that is where we find unconscious bias.
  3. Elimination of bias in the work product – as citizens of Malaysia, we want to be called Malaysian and nothing else. But as marketers, we divide our audience into Malays, Chinese, Indians, and others. We should do our part to put an end to racial profiling and bias.

“To this end, 4As Malaysia is rolling out a structured and strategic DEI plan including a way to educate local member agencies on what DEI truly is, what it means and how to implement it not only in their internal workings but also in the campaigns that we create,” said Nizwani.

The 4As has committed to do the following:

  1. 4As will participate in a VoxComm report and analysis on worldwide gender pay gaps that includes Malaysia. Voxcomm is a global trade body representing 36 national advertising agency trade associations.
  2. 4As will build a repository of relevant information for business owners and independent businesses.
  3. 4As will launch a course on DEI, “Diversity and Inclusion Essentials Certificate” with long- standing partner Chartered Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) UK.

“These are the first steps we are taking on our DEI journey. We ask for agencies to commit to support the industry, to explore and understand how we can be more equitable and inclusive of everyone in our industry. We need to clarify our ambitious goals and work together not only to improve but make an impact that can be measured in the outcomes we achieve,” concluded Nizwani.

Andrew Lee, 4As President reinforced the Association’s stand by saying, “For the Effie Awards 2022, the 4As has for the first time called for applications from potential judges who bring different perspectives to the process. By assembling judging panels of varied and accomplished experts, we are also committed to taking a step towards addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI) shortcomings in the Malaysian advertising landscape.”

“Beyond the human impact, DEI is a crucial pillar for agencies to do business. It is neither a CSR-movement nor is it a trend. Companies are discovering that, by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they are gaining benefits that go beyond the optics,” added Lee.

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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

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