Nostalgia is the enemy of progress on diversity

Paul Burke's recent article about diversity underlines the danger of nostalgia, says the chief executive of Creative Equals.

Take off your rosé-tinted glasses, Paul

You say "what first attracted" you to agency life was its "random selection" process. It turns out women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community and more were not invited in as part of this "random" process.

Know this.

Without a seat at the table and facing huge barriers to entry, diverse voices haven’t been heard or equally represented. Media, shaped by a community who are 88% white men, has – at best – type-cast and stereotyped and – at worst – neglected whole sections of society and objectified women to the point where last year 91% of Girl Guides aged 11 to 18 would like to see advertising portray a better, more diverse representation of girls and women. The ASA has had to legislate to make the work that has defined some of the work of the last few decades unacceptable.  

Nostalgia, Paul, is dangerous.

Wherever do you get the idea this was ever a "varied cast"? If only 12% of creative directors are women, then 88% of those are men. Just 1-2% of creative directors are women of colour. Varied? I don't think so. 

Stop and read this. Slowly.  

Our recent data shows BAME creatives are half as likely to have their work entered into award shows, less than half as likely to get promoted and 25% less likely to be invited to the pitch table compared to their white colleagues.

Yes, you can read that again.

That is the product of your "varied cast" and the "random selection" process. Bias is live and kicking on the creative shop floor. And while many clients now turn away pitch teams without women, let’s hope they start turning away teams without BAME creatives too.    

Clearly with your glasses on, only white men are "unusual and original" thinkers. Their "disparate opinions" have – according to you – "inspired crucibles of creativity" – which in turn have "powered the whole industry."

Well, look at it currently, Paul.

Just maybe if we had invited more diverse communities from wildly different backgrounds in earlier, this industry wouldn’t be on the knife-edge it is now.

And, why would anyone "fear reprisals" of expressing their opinions, unless they were racist, sexist or bigoted? We live in a world of free speech. Diverse teams argue fiercely, if you’d read the Great British Diversity Experiment findings.

Your article is like the French feminists stating the #MeToo campaign will make us all "Puritans". No one is pushing for a "virtuous" world, just a fairer, more equal one.

This "opinion piece" about "opinions" has taken me longer than I wanted to write about. Creative Equals has so much work to do to change this industry. Our workload is endless.

Maybe when you take your glasses off, Paul, you’ll come do some of the heavy-lifting to change diversity instead of just having an "opinion". We could do with a hand.


Ali Hanan is the founder and chief executive of Creative Equals

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