Let's improve diversity in creative industries by inspiring the next generation

Let's improve diversity in creative industries by inspiring the next generation

Whether it's age, sex or race, there's so much more that we can do as industry to improve diversity and inclusion, Paul Frampton of Big Youth Group says.

After a century of struggle since the Representation of the People Act gave some women the right to vote in 1918, there is a genuine movement for gender equality in the creative industries.

#Metoo has delivered more than rhetoric, it has delivered something that campaigning has historically found difficult to achieve; namely action.

Every week brings a new story of a man being dismissed for inappropriate behaviour or a brave woman sharing her personal experience.

Given the slow progress over the last decade, women have quite rightly welcomed and embraced this breakthrough.

Too many confident women (like Uma Thurman) who have previously felt unable to speak out for fear of being ostracised or endangering their career; now they feel they have been given permission.

Sadly, the industry knows well that it has had its fair share of Weinstein-esque characters and most have gone unchecked.

In February 2018, it feels like we have passed the point of no return. That is a very positive step towards realising the $12 trillion global economic opportunity that addressing female inequality would unlock.

That said, I do feel that we must remember that to drive sustainable change, the industry needs men to be part of both the conversation and the solution.

Painting all men as predators is unfair as is classifying all "banter" as abuse.

I’ll readily admit that many men need to check themselves and develop greater self-awareness but equally often innocent comments can be misconstrued. 

That said, I would urge all men to consider two hyper-critical factors.

First, what you may personally be comfortable with, as innocent banter with male friends, can often be considered deeply inappropriate by others.

Second, the World Economic Forum has identified EQ as one of the five essential skills for navigating the fourth industrial revolution.

As a man, I feel that I can say that many of my kind, are light on emotional intelligence (I have had to actively work on it myself), but thankfully studies tell us that EQ can be learned.

Any man wondering what to do or how to behave in today’s climate could do worse than start with looking to understand his own unconscious biases.

Contrary to some narratives, there are many men keen to add their support to the gender diversity movement, but unsure of how to contribute or fearful of saying the right thing.

It is exactly because of those facts, that I opened a group on Linkedin to encourage an open conversation between men and women on this topic and also felt it was important to pen this piece.

Whilst we are witnessing a renewed momentum, the IPA Census data still reveals that the number of women in senior leadership roles has stalled.

To drive that next significant breakthrough of the glass ceiling, I firmly believe that we need men standing alongside and collaborating with women.

To paraphrase Polly Toynbee from her recent column in The Guardian, "liberation for women means digging up the roots of human culture, nothing less."

I do want to make one other fundamental point. Whilst, as a self-professed manbassador, I am delighted to see the positive shift to action in gender equality, this is only part of the correction needed in the creative industries.

Inclusivity by definition means that everyone, no matter their gender, sexual persuasion, age, race or health issues is accepted and given equal chances of succeeding in the workplace.

The only danger of #Metoo dominating the headlines is that we lose sight of the significant work still to be done in many of these areas.

The BAME stats from the same IPA census showed the number of non-white leaders going backwards, with only 12% representation.

Thankfully, Naren Patel (CEO of Primesight) alongside Dara Nasr (MD of Twitter), Mimi Turner (ex-marketing director of The Ladbible and Vice) and others have this year taken it upon themselves to launch the worthy initiative Media For All to address this.

Ethan Spibey last year successfully launched InterComms to represent the LGBT community.

It does feel however that the movements in these areas are far less in vogue and receive less column inches.

Clearly in the real world, these dynamics also do not exist in splendid isolation; what is being done to create an inclusive environment for a black woman or for a gay Asian man in the comms industry?

Interestingly, I find the most over looked dynamic, at either end of the spectrum, is age.

It is well documented that if you’re over 50 (unless you’re at the top of the tree) this industry can be a cruel master.

Young people also have many struggles. From spending time with many 18-30 year olds of late, the majority feel that the organisations they serve, fail to invest in them and that they have less opportunities to rise up the ladder than the previous generation.

Equally, many of those leaving school or further education would love the chance to break in to the creative industries but find it impenetrable without the advantage of knowing people on the inside. 

It is for this reason that, along with 24-year-old entrepreneur and social influencer, Jack Parsons, I have launched a business called Big Youth Group.

It will help young people get that first break by connecting them with mentors and opportunities in business (Big Youth Project) help them scale if they have set up their own business (Big Youth Accelerator) and help up-skill those in an unfulfilling role so they can find more a career with more purpose (Big Youth Academy).

Ensuring that we achieve diversity in our programmes, particularly the accelerator will be key, but sadly, to date, all applicants have been young men.

There is much work to be done.

It is tough to concentrate on every pillar of inclusivity at once, but that’s no excuse for not having a structured plan to do so. 

It’s the responsibility of all leaders in the creative industries to work towards creating an environment where every individual feels they can bring their whole self to work.

So my ralling cry is, to remember that inclusion is multi-faceted and that, just like target audiences, it’s increasingly difficult to classify individuals neatly in to one box.

As someone much smarter than me said, diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.

Paul Frampton is chairman of Big Youth Group and a former chief executive of Havas Media UK & Ireland


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