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The creative industries need #MoreThanWords to ensure real change

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We've heard the promises of a hypocritical industry working relentlessly to patch up the holes in representation and diversity. We've seen our own industry fall short of those promises when the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has found BAME employees in key creative sectors had actually declined in 2019. We've seen enough.

Creative Access has seen enough, too. Their #MoreThanWords campaign is a heartfelt and active call for businesses to take real action and ensure change beyond vacuous promises. And we wanted to hear more about it.

We've reached out to the folks at Creative Access to learn more about the premises behind the initiative. Their response was the piece you can see below, crafted by marketing and admin assistant Moneeka Thakur, witness of a shattered industry. Here's why the time for words is over.

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Driving real change

In a year that has already been shaped by seismic change, recent weeks have introduced a much-needed challenge to the status quo of our creative industries. After the tragic killing of George Floyd in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained huge momentum across the globe. Calls to confront the racism that remains pervasive in our societies have been pushed to the forefront of the agenda.

The results of our survey have revealed that change is more urgent than ever. Now is the time for real action.

The UK’s slow progression towards diversity has long been subject to criticism. Back in 2015, former children’s laureate and Creative Access board member Malorie Blackman spoke of “being the sole face of colour at literary or publishing events”. Five years later, Emmy-winning actress Sandra Oh has recently observed that “the UK … is behind. I am not only the only Asian person on set, but the development of people behind the camera is very slow.

Both Blackman and Oh, leading figures in their industries, have identified the same issue five years apart. It is evident that the change that has long been pledged by organisations is not being acted upon. It appears as though many organisations have become proficient in pledging action rather conducting it.

Recent statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter from companies have understandably been met with frustration and scepticism. From broadcasters assuring audiences that they are working towards diversity to publishing organisations acknowledging that they have got to do better, statements echo those that have been made for years.

Despite these assurances, statistics from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport show that the number of BAME employees in key creative sectors had actually declined in 2019. Our survey results also indicate that this situation is only getting worse. Hopeful creatives have found it increasingly difficult to secure jobs and many of those in the industry currently face a precarious income. 80% of our 252 participants said their priority is to find a new job or freelance work while 40% of those in work had been furloughed, made redundant or had work cancelled or postponed. 

It’s clear that under-represented communities have been listening to a narrative promising progression for far too long. So, how do we enable actual change? The answer is in action.

This is a call to businesses

We at Creative Access have launched #MoreThanWords; a call to action for businesses to make a wholehearted commitment to bringing in and uplifting under-represented talent within the creative industries.

The #MoreThanWords campaign invites employers to commit to making changes in three core areas:

  • Hiring diverse candidates when recruiting;
  • Investing in staff from under-represented groups to progress to senior positions;
  • Creating an inclusive workplace so new and existing diverse staff feel valued and able to flourish.

The journey towards a genuinely representative creative workforce must be geared towards creating rewarding paid opportunities. We’re asking for organisations to join us in committing to bringing and uplifting talent from under-represented communities.

This campaign calls for long-term change within the industries by nurturing these candidates. Real change is not only about enabling candidates to get a foot through the door, but ensuring that they will thrive once they do so. We want to see candidates from a diversity of backgrounds flourish and gain senior roles, become board members and in turn offer their insight when bringing in new talent. It is from here we can enable enduring representation in the creative industries. 

We are proud to have placed over 1750 trainees in paid internships and supported over 30,000 people since our launch in 2012. It has been incredible to witness the range of accomplishments our interns have achieved in that time just by being offered an opportunity in the industry.

Amongst the recent turbulence and uncertainty, there is also a sense that now might finally be the time of real change, as 2020 has already proven itself to be a year for the history books. Challenging anti-racism and under-representation in our industries will require real work, however, we know that the willingness to do so is there. We’ve identified what issues exist. We’ve heard organisations’ statements of solidarity. We know there are talented creatives looking for opportunities. The only thing left is to act.

It’s time for #MoreThanWords.


Moneeka Thakur is marketing and admin assistant at Creative Access. Header image: Kmila Fcs.
 

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