We have a long way to go to make our industry more diverse and inclusive but at least we have moved past the point of having to demonstrate that it lacks diversity, the benefits of diversity, and the need to take positive steps toward change. All of those things are now a given.
That is an important step - we no longer need to spend time identifying the problem and explain why it would benefit us all to create change - we can get on with fixing the problem.
The great challenge now is turning good intentions - an industry that wants to be more diverse and inclusive - into effective action.
As with any issue where change is required we need to establish:
1. The current position and what is wrong with it.
2. Where we want to get to (i.e. what success looks like).
3. How we are going to get there
And to constantly review and adjust what we are doing to increase its effectiveness.
One and two are more simple than three. The APA undertook a diversity survey to establish the make-up of the commercials production industry in terms of gender and race in different roles.
Where we want to get to is to have the industry broadly reflect the make-up of the UK in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.
Even there, there are complexities though - our survey focused on gender and ethnicity, as a starting point, and with a focus on readily identifiable characteristics. Other characteristics, e.g. social class, are harder to identify and survey.
The real challenge is in three - what is effective action?
To address that, we need to ask why the industry isn’t more diverse.
There are complex reasons for the lack of diversity but central to that are three reasons. Firstly, you have to know the industry exists to want to enter it. Secondly, you have to believe that people like you can work in it. Thirdly, you have to have some idea on how to approach it.
The foundation of the plan is the survey of diversity in the industry, so we have a benchmark to assess the progress of the work the industry plans to undertake to improve it - and to change course if results aren’t achieved.
The other parts of it are designed to give people from underrepresented groups knowledge of the industry and encourage them to be a part of it - through programmes like Speakers for Schools, where I go into schools and explain the industry and how to get into it; our partnership with Inspire to tell the kids they work with via Hackney, Islington and Camden councils about opportunities in commercials production, and through our work with Brixton Finishing School - where founder Ally Owen has created an effective organisation bringing opportunity in the advertising industry to many who would not otherwise have had it.
We have provided resources for access to diverse crew (and we have more to announce on that). Think you can’t find a BAME 1st AD? Come to us.
We have a mentor programme, to provide support to those who have not previously been widely represented in commercials production, with the Creative Mentor Network, and training on unconscious bias training from the Challenge Consultancy - which Femi Otitoju the founder has engaged APA members through with her insights.
Finally, we have Just Runners and Diverse Crew Resources to make it easy for APA members to find talent from diverse backgrounds. Plus, we are working on a project with BECTU to introduce people from underrepresented groups to employers.
One key lesson for us in putting together the plan was to seek the most actions with the most potential to create change, based on the principle that APA members are committed to greater diversity and we can help them by giving them resources to achieve that. We also want to commit to making those actions work and resist then saying yes to every diversity and inclusion initiative proposed to us. Some initiatives are potentially very good, but we are aware of the danger of subscribing to them all and then not being able to give each one the attention it needs to be successful. It is better to commit to seven and make those seven work, than to sign up to 50 and do bits and pieces of each.
We hope our draft diversity and inclusion action plan, which members can adapt and adopt to ensure it sets out their own commitments and not just what we suggest, will help members take effective steps to bring new talent into the industry and to nurture this new talent.
Action is vital. It has been said that the time for talking is past. I don’t quite agree with that. We need both so that we can review what everyone is doing and learn from successes and failures. A great catalyst for that, which I enjoy being part of, is Unify, a forum for discussing change and learning from others, founded by two brilliant young people with a vision of change, Charles Parkinson and Ashley Samuels-Mackenzie.
Join if you can and be part of the conversation - while getting on with, and ensuring the success of, your own diversity and inclusion initiatives too.