The lack of diversity in the creative industries is frightening. Only 10.9% of creative jobs are filled by BAME people, that is Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic, according to the Creative Industries Federation’s 2015 survey. In stark contrast, 40% of the population of London, a major creative centre, is BAME.
I am British Indian and I work in the Communications industry.
The door to this sector was unlocked for me by Creative Access and my current employer Linstock Communications. Creative Access is a charity which works with 270 partners, including Linstock, to provide internship opportunities for people from minority ethnic groups. They provide the guidance and connections that are often unavailable to young BAME people through regular networking events and training workshops. To date, they have placed 714 interns in jobs and hold an 82% success rate of supporting interns into permanent employment.
Yet in December of last year, Creative Access became yet another casualty in the aftermath of Brexit. The government announced that they would be cutting £2 million of funding to the charity, which now faces imminent closure.
This is a massive, frustrating step backwards.
Programmes like Creative Access, and the partner organisations they work with, are critical to the success of the creative industries. Without them, it will become much more difficult for companies to recruit and retain BAME talent. We risk the progress we have made towards a more representative industry. And we risk discounting talent just because of a person’s ethnicity.
Businesses need a diverse workforce in order to push boundaries and absorb a variety of ideas and perspectives. But more than this, diversity brings the ability to connect with audiences previously overlooked. By 2012, the UK’s BAME population had a disposable income of over £300 billion, according to ONS, yet approximately 30% of businesses make no effort to reach ethnic communities. That’s a lot of income many companies aren’t tapping into.
Creative Access challenges creative industries by asking a simple question: ‘How can the media reflect society, if society is not reflected in the media?’ Going forward, we should not only look for opportunities to support programmes like Creative Access, but find new ways to follow the example set by the charity’s co-founders, Josie Dobrin and Michael Foster. We need to ask questions, break down boundaries, tackle unconscious bias, and interrogate the homogenous norm. It’s in my interests, it’s in my employer’s interest, and it’s in the interests of the creative sector as a whole.