As I perused the toplines for this year’s must-read issue on careers and salary, a headline came to me that was reflective of 2020, the year: Salaries Down Double Digits. It’s not surprising, knowing what we know about the marketing industry in general. The number is down. A lot.
But our little corner of the world isn’t faring quite that badly, and some sunshine is peeking through the dark clouds cast by COVID-19.
The brightest spot to me? While the overall reduction in salary was 11.7%, a bright spot was an increase in salary for women, who comprised 56.4% of respondents. While there is still a material gap in salaries between men and women, especially at more senior levels, it’s narrowing. That’s a bright spot that I believe will continue to shine as more and more junior staffers grow into larger roles.
Another bright spot? By and large, people in healthcare promotion are working — and COVID has caused Americans to pay more attention to us, or least the brands that are being created.
A FutureBrand survey showed a great surge in the reputations of pharma companies. It has been fueled by the industry’s overall response to the virus, and to wins such as Gilead’s remdesivir, the testing of convalescent plasma, the rapid creation and testing of antibodies to the virus and multiple vaccines in development.
As a member of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, I take part in regular check-ins with other agency leaders, and in recent months we’ve shared a common finding: Our businesses are growing, not contracting, and our key focus is making sure that our remote workers are able to engage in self-care. I was interested to learn that network agencies were filling vacancies with staffers from their less fortunate network divisions, which is another good sign.
Which brings us to what comes next. The average salary figure might improve somewhat next year, given that the labor market remains tight. Could there be a dip in two years, when we could be paying the piper for the slowed clinical development that we’re seeing now? Maybe.
In terms of concerns related to work/life balance, I’m sure some companies are going to remain all-virtual-all-the-time even after it’s safe again to return to the office. As an industry we’ll likely give employees more choice about when they work from home, but I predict the pendulum will swing back in the other direction, because collaboration remains so essential to the work that we create.
We’ve come up with wonderful workarounds that enable very, very good work, no doubt. There will still be times when the best people want to collaborate in person. We had a pitch last month and half the team came into the office. They fed off each other’s energy and it went incredibly well.
All things considered, I believe the business will remain a top destination among A-list marketers. I recently attended a webinar on gene therapies that may just cure — not ameliorate the symptoms of, but cure — a disease that afflicts millions. Whenever somebody asks me why I’m so happy to go to work in the morning, I tell them that I get to work on therapies like that. I get to materially affect how we educate audiences about it and market it responsibly. That has always been, and will always be, a great privilege.
Jay Carter is EVP and director of business development at AbelsonTaylor