Nearly half of marketers say ageism is tolerated more than other forms of discrimination: Canadian Marketing Association

May 31, 2023

Organizations with well-diversified leadership teams experience 10x higher employee engagement and 4x better retention

TORONTO, May 31, 2023 – New research released today by the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) found that nearly half (44 per cent) of marketers believe that age discrimination is tolerated in their workplaces more than other forms of discrimination.

Ageism in the industry

The CMA’s new report, DEI in the Marketing Profession: Progress and Challenges, found that most Boomers (81 per cent) and Gen Xers (62 percent) reported feeling disadvantaged by an image-conscious marketing industry. Only half (49 per cent) of Millennials reported feeling the same. This was felt most acutely in agency settings as 13 per cent of marketers in agencies considered employees in their thirties to be “older”, double the rate of client companies.

“Our latest research shows that experience is too often devalued in the marketing profession,” said Alison Simpson, president and CEO, CMA. “DEI initiatives should take age into consideration as well as other harmful forms of discrimination. Age should not be a barrier to hiring, working with, or promoting a deserving employee.”

Diversity is key to employee engagement and retention

The vast majority of respondents agreed that having a leadership team that is well-diversified supports business growth (96 per cent) and offers many benefits (98 per cent). Notably, employees in organizations with diverse leadership feel valued and included and are invested in the organization’s success.

This brings tremendous business value to organizations.

DEI in the Marketing Profession: Progress and Challenges also found that in workplaces where leadership is not diverse, employee disengagement rates due to discrimination are rising (60 per cent in 2023 compared to 52 per cent in 2022). When these employees feel disengaged, most (65 per cent) will start looking for a new job.

In contrast, in organizations with well-diversified leadership, a minority (14 per cent) said they feel disengaged at least sometimes, and only a small percentage (17 per cent) said they would look for another job if discriminatory policies or action impacts their level of engagement. Employees in these organizations are much more likely to talk to peers and try to determine how to address the situation (42 per cent) than employees in workplaces where leadership is not diversified (26 per cent).

“The positive business impact of well-diversified leadership is undeniable,” said Patrick Bhang, co-chair of the CMA’s DEI Committee, and director, retail merchandising at RBC. “Having employees who feel valued and are invested in the success of your organization not only contributes to your internal culture, but strengthens external customer and partner relationships. Our research found that engagement has a direct impact on employee retention, further solidifying the positive impact of diversity in the workplace.”

DEI in the Marketing Profession: Progress and Challenges also found that job satisfaction is not felt equally. About two-thirds (67 per cent) of non-marginalized women say they look for employment elsewhere when they feel disengaged due to discrimination and nearly half (48 per cent) of marginalized women say the same. Around one-third (30 per cent) of marginalized men start looking for a new job; however, none (0 per cent) of the non-marginalized men indicated they do so.

Implementing an effective DEI strategy

DEI in the Marketing Profession: Progress and Challenges explored what steps can be taken to have a meaningful impact on diversity in the workplace for the marketing industry. While fewer respondents report witnessing discriminatory behaviour than they did last year (78 per cent in 2023 compared to 85 per cent in 2022), the number of people who report experiencing microaggressions in the past 12 months remains high (42 per cent). The industry is moving in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Speaking about DEI initiatives is one thing, but seeing them through is quite another, despite good intentions. The top three steps for implementing an effective DEI strategy that emerged from this year’s research are:

  • Senior leadership support in backing the initiative (77 per cent),
  • Hiring talent from diverse communities (72 per cent), and
  • Formal diversity and inclusivity/unconscious bias training and management programs for all employees including senior management (64 per cent)

The value of support and resources from senior leadership has proved crucial in moving DEI initiatives beyond the idea phase – an important point for Canadian organizations to consider.

About the study

The research is the third study completed since 2020 and part of the CMA’s broader commitment to take steps to combat racism and discrimination in the marketing profession. It was developed in collaboration with the CMA’s DEI Committee. Approximately 435 marketing professionals across Canada participated in the survey. The research was conducted by independent research firm RKI.

About the Canadian Marketing Association

The CMA is the voice of marketing in Canada and our purpose is to champion marketing’s powerful impact. We are the catalyst to help Canada’s marketers thrive today, while building the marketing mindset and environment of tomorrow.

We provide opportunities for our members from coast to coast to develop professionally, to contribute to marketing thought leadership, to build strong networks, and 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. We represent virtually all of Canada's major business sectors, and all marketing disciplines, channels and technologies. Our Consumer Centre helps Canadians better understand their rights and obligations. For more information, visit

About RKI

RKI: Research + Knowledge = Insights 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. RKI’s practice is tailored to a range of audiences, from elite C-suite executives, to small, medium, and large business leaders, and to employees and consumers across a range of industry verticals. The RKI team provides insight and inspiration to realize changes specific to particular industries in an evolving global scene. For more information, visit

Nathaniel Glassman, Kaiser & Partners | 416.998.2258




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