Creative industries are without doubt some of the most exciting places to work, but can also be one of the most competitive, and it can be difficult to climb the ladder, especially if you’re female, from a different socioeconomic background or of a minority heritage. As a sector, the workforce is pretty diverse but similar to most other industries, this isn’t well reflected among senior positions within companies, and it’s time for that to change.
In the last year, Handle have launched two waves of our creative breakthrough programme, with an aim to correct the diversity imbalance by supporting women working in the creative industries. We designed a bespoke creative industry mentoring programme to help them navigate a more fulfilling career path and snap up the roles they deserve. This autumn, we are opening up our applications to any person from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) heritage working in the creative industries, to honour our personal commitment to help create a more inclusive environment across the sectors we work with.
Ollie Oshodi, Head of Entertainment at Fuse was a mentor in our first programme, and she is passionate about the need for a BAME creative mentoring program. She says. “ I think programmes like this are important because it can be difficult not seeing other people that look like you on your level or above you to aspire to. I had one Asian boss at my first agency and since then nobody else similar. I have a group of friends and we’re all women of colour who follow Karen Blackett and Bozoma Saint John as role models. We look at these black women and keep up with what they’re doing because there isn’t anyone in our immediate surroundings on that level, and we see them as inspiration. I just feel that we need more BAME mentoring programmes to support the next generation of BAME people coming through.”
When BAME representation at your company is thin on the ground it can be isolating, or there can be a lot of pressure to be a representative for your community and speak up on issues – something that can be valuable, but can also be exhausting. There are also micoragressions to tackle, and as Ollie points out, an expectation to embrace an unfamiliar company culture. “ You might go into an environment where you feel like ‘maybe there isn’t anyone like me in this area’ and that can make you feel uneasy. You might not drink or want to do the sports socialising activities that companies often do, and when these things aren’t considered, people don’t feel comfortable and don’t feel supported – the exact opposite of what these team-building exercises are supposed to achieve.”
These specific challenges plus well-documented issues around unconscious bias in the hiring and promoting process can make achieving a workforce that’s truly reflective of society difficult. At Handle, we know how much talent can be missed when the correct opportunities aren’t presented, and we truly believe that getting great results starts with having an inclusive and representative environment for your teams. However, it takes more than just hiring a few new faces, and Ollie agrees, “There is a need with the rise of diversity and inclusion as buzzwords to make sure it isn’t just tokenism. It can’t just be a numbers game where you drop a few people in. You have to give them the support they need to go further to really embed those values into your company and encourage consistency.”