It’s time to overhaul homogeneous company culture in the creative industry – and here’s how
Almaz Ohene is a member of People of Colour Creative, a network with a mission to accelerate equality and positively change the experiences of people of colour within the creative industry. Here she outlines the ways in which creative companies can encourage diversity and create better work as a result.
Founded by Nana Bempah and Kevin Morosky in 2018, the POCC network has a mission to accelerate equality and positivity change the experiences of people of colour within the industry. Almaz Ohene, the founder and creative director of Kayleigh Daniels Dated, is a member of the network and together they outline the ways in which the sector can become more inclusive to everyone as a new decade begins.
As black and brown people, we’re often only asked to comment on one particular topic – our experiences as People of Colour. And to be honest, we’re tired of that single narrative. It’s important to talk about visible difference, but the erasure of concurrent identities is currently stalling the progress of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
It quickly became obvious that within our POCC network, we weren’t just having conversations about racism, but discussions about a wide range of topics, including flexibility for working mothers, striving for less toxicity within agencies’ behaviour (blame culture is rife), dealing with mental-health issues and solutions, LGBTQ+ issues, and better inclusion of neurodivergent (people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s, autism, and other neuro-atypical conditions) ways of working.
We’ve found that often workplaces aren’t equipped to deal with many of these intersectional issues, and networks like ours are already making a difference. Here at POCC, 2019 was a whirlwind year of determination, creativity and growth. We started life as a WhatsApp group in 2018, which was our first step towards meaningfully increasing diversity within the creative industries. Very quickly, we found that there was a collective hunger and desire to unite through shared experiences, in both life and within the workplace, to make a difference.
It’s well documented that there’s a lack of diversity across creative departments in the UK. Many of our industry colleagues sitting outside the caucasian, middle-class majority, can feel alienated by a workplace that from the outside looks like a really progressive place to be. But the reality is that creative teams can be really quite homogenous. And, as we all know, hiring too many of the same types of people can stop companies from reaching their full potential.
The industry needs to be more aware of its biases and to strive to become more representative both in terms of who’s hired within creative agencies and the work itself. There is still volumes of work being made, and winning awards, that relies heavily on ableist, ageist, classist tropes, not to mention the sometimes glaring homophobic, sexist or racist messaging that gets picked up by the Advertising Standards Authority. All of which indicates that we don’t yet have anything close to true representation within our creative teams.
Last year we worked on a handful of POCC-generated campaigns that we’re really proud of. Stop and Watch, for instance, was a campaign encouraging people to film police stopping and searching, ensuring everything is done correctly. Another was Generations of Greatness, a campaign celebrating black and brown achievements, featuring the origin stories from people across a range of industries, such as broadcaster Clara Amfo, filmmaker Eloise King and Engine chief executive, Ete Davies. We also made The World is (Y)Ours – a film directed by Tanya Noushka looking at climate change from the perspective of first and second-generation migrants in Britain. It highlights how the actions of western countries are negatively affecting familial homes all over the world.
In the coming year, we are looking to build better diversity and inclusion frameworks within the creative industries. We advocate for re-addressing company cultures, to make it possible for people to bring their “whole self” to work. We know that the creative industry has a problem it must face and it needs to take actual action. In practice, we encourage creative companies to look to employ the following points.
Redressing the imbalance
This could begin by purposefully looking for diverse talent during recruitment processes. Companies need to avoid making immediate, emotional decisions based on initial social rapport during the interview stages. Instead, dig out the specifics of somebody’s experience and skill set.
Changing the narrative
Avoid using lazy stereotyping as shorthand when dealing with culture-specific issues in campaigns. Don’t make demographic assumptions and instead take a deeper look into the subject matter.
Telling our true authentic stories
If there’s no-one directly on hand to offer insight into a particular topic, bring outside voices in as consultants. We all express our values and culture in different ways, and nuance can sometimes be really elusive.
Progressing through collaboration
When looking for creatives to collaborate with, no matter the brief, specifically reach out to creatives of colour when you’ve seen and liked their work, rather than sticking to your handful of regular go-tos. This can help to develop mutually beneficial collaboration opportunities.
Navigating the system
Where possible, offer mentorship opportunities to employees who may not have access to many of the existing “old boy” networks. Peer-to-peer mentoring works just as well as top-down models.
Advocating for change
Being vocal about systemic issues and actively challenging them really helps. Not all conflict is negative and getting used to hearing criticism is something we can all improve on.
What we’ve found is that sharing knowledge, providing support, airing frustrations – and using that energy positively to bring about change – does make a difference. For us, true diversification brings limitless benefits. Not just for people of colour, but for society as a whole.
Supported by Google
Google is proud to support It’s Nice That’s Preview of the Year in championing a broad and inclusive creative community. We believe that design is critical to building great products and experiences, and we’re committed to supporting best-in-class efforts like Material Design – a unified system combining theory, resources, and tools to help designers and developers craft beautiful, digital experiences – and Google Design. At Google Design, we produce original articles and videos, host events, and champion creative and educational partnerships, with the goal of supporting and inspiring designers and design technologists. Sign up for the Google Design Newsletter to learn more.