Brixton Finishing School: What’s the creative industry doing about diversity?

Employment in the creative industries has grown three times faster than the national average in the past seven years according to statistics from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Despite this, only 10.9% of creative vacancies are filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates and although more women enter creative courses than men (61%), we are losing up to 50% of our qualified female talent between education and permanent roles in advertising agency creative departments.

The creative industry is defined by people and ideas but how can creativity thrive and spark new ideas when there is a clear lack of diversity in the workplace? There are huge leaps to be made and there are many organisations addressing these disparities. The Creative Industries Council (CIC) for example, has launched an industry-wide pledge designed to drive diversity across the UK and has established eight key areas that require attention to create a more diverse workplace.

Ally Owen, is the founder of The Brixton Finish School who run a free 12-week premium learning experience to equip young talent from varying backgrounds for an entry-level role in the creative industry. Their mission is to disrupt the recruitment process in the creative industry and they have a 95% employment success rate. We also spoke to Holly Killen, a talented creative looking to break into the creative industries and is part of the Brixton Finishing School 2019 cohort.

A Deloitte survey found that 43% of millennials plan to leave their job within 2 years. Do you think brands should be doing more to attract and retain talent?

 

Holly: I think in terms of low retention, in my experience employers haven’t offered flexible working, and it’s frustrating because they do a tonne of employee surveys, ask for reviews etc. but then they never implement what people say. Additionally, I think a lot of places don’t give enough training, I think people leave because they’re not learning. Also, salary stagnation, the easier way to get a raise is to get a new job.

 

Ally: It would be interesting to delve further into these figures and analyse which segments of millennials were most likely to move on. If you enter a workplace where you are ‘under represented’ there are a host of factors at play in determining whether you feel it’s worth staying. For example, employees from a BAME background are significantly more likely than those from a white British/other ethnic background to say that career progression is an important factor in their working life. However, they are most likely to say their career to date has failed to meet their expectations than white British employees.

 

In the current age of austerity (little job security, not much in pay rises) where is the reward for loyalty?

How diverse do you think the creative industry is?

 

Holly: As for the creative industry, I always wanted to work in advertising but didn’t apply for any graduate schemes because all of the people recruiting didn’t look like me, and I thought I would have no chance.

Additionally, businesses are always fishing in the same pond, that’s why initiatives like Brixton Finishing School will enable them to actually have access to diverse talent.

 

Ally:  The creative industries tell our stories and heavily influence how we view ourselves and the world. The communication arts (marketing/advertising/technology), is the one industry that sells everything to everybody, but its make-up doesn’t represent everyone.

 

We love our industry and wanted to create better work and outcomes, by driving social mobility and inclusion. The launch of Brixton Finishing School and it’s embedding into an industry wide alliance of businesses is a step on the path to a solution to our entry level diversity and inclusion challenges.

 

Our collective view of ‘beauty’, gender roles and stereotypes are all partly rooted in the brand stories and imagery we consume. It is vital to drive change so we can create the best conditions for a major cultural shift to one of everyday inclusion for all.

 

Often, access to ‘Adland’ is based on who you know – it can be hard to break into unless you fit a standardised and ‘atypical’ view of talent – male, middle/upper class and Caucasian. This leads to ‘tone deaf’ work such as Pepsi’s pastiche of Black Lives matter with Kendall Jenner and Heineken ‘Lighter is better’.

 

Taking our capital’s population as an example, over 40% is from a BAME background and 52% is female. Only 16% of women are creative directors (though they influence 70 – 80% of all goods purchasing decisions and a mere 15% are BAME, and we are embarrassingly London centric. There is very poor inclusion of those who labelled from ‘low income’ or ‘neuro diverse’. We suffer a North/South divide. The top tier remains un-diverse.

 

Our solution is Brixton Finishing School – it’s truly disruptive: a movement that’s set to quite literally change the face of the media industry.

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