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Racial Discrimination in the Advertising Industry

A recently published study initiated by a coalition of legal, civil rights and industry leaders who created the Madison Avenue Project in 2008 in conjunction with the NAACP highlighted the bias against African-American professionals in the advertising industry in all areas including pay, hiring, promotions, assignments and other areas. The study, entitled "Research Perspectives on Race and Employment in the Advertising Industry," found that racial discrimination is 38 percent worse in the advertising industry than in the overall U.S. labor market. In addition, the study found that the "discrimination divide" between the advertising industry and other U.S. industries is more than twice as bad now than it was 30 years ago.

One of the most surprising statistics highlighted in the report was that approximately 16% of large advertising firms employ no African-American managers or professionals, a rate that is 60% higher than in the overall labor market. It was also found that African-Americans working in the advertising industry earn $.80 for every dollar earned by their equally-qualified white colleagues.

The study suggested that systemic barriers to equality in the advertising industry have not budged in the last 40 years. It was concluded that appropriate responses to racial discrimination within the advertising industry included rooting out stereotypes which determine employment potential and eliminating assumptions that racial minorities cannot succeed in non-ethnic markets. The NAACP plans to circulate the report to its members, as well as Fortune 100 companies in an attempt to urge them to stop aiding and abetting racial discrimination in the advertising industry.

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