Taking a creative approach to workplace diversity

Image of Sandra Kerr OBE


Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community


Earlier this week I attended the launch of the Creative Industries Federation’s latest report on creative diversity. I was delighted to see that Business in the Community was listed as an organisation providing support on diversity as well as a mention of our 5 Points for Progress Toolkit. However, the report does highlight the under-representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in these industries and the need for employers to tackle this.

We know that 11 per cent of people working in the creative industries are from a BAME background. But due to the concentration of creative jobs in London, where 40 per cent of the population is BAME, they have set a target of 17.8 per cent for the creative industries by 2020 to reflect the population at large. With one in three people in the UK projected to come from a BAME background by 2051, it’s vital that creative industries employers ensure that their workforce reflects the diversity of their audience. It was great to see Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, demonstrating leadership and giving his full weight of support to the report recommendations and actions.

There was also some discussion on what actions can be taken to ensure those who commission and green light film projects and programmes are diverse. They have a key role to play in commissioning programmes that are inclusive and reflect UK society.

These gaps are not limited to ethnicity either; there is also a lack of diversity across gender, age and socioeconomic background. If this is not addressed, the creative industries run the risk of missing out on a significant pool of potential talent and on the financial benefits a diverse and inclusive workforce can bring – research from McKinsey shows the most ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform the least diverse.

So what action can employers in the creative industries take to increase BAME representation? Our Gender and Race Benchmark shows there are a number of approaches employers can use to do this, such as targeting diverse candidates at recruitment fairs, engaging early with young people from under-represented groups to make them aware of roles and opportunities available in the sector, and using a range of recruitment channels. Monitoring the number of BAME candidates in the application and interview processes and providing mandatory unconscious bias training to all employees involved in recruitment can also help address barriers.

But just getting BAME candidates into creative roles is not enough; they also need to have fair opportunities to progress. Our Benchmark shows that monitoring appraisal data, ‘equality-proofing’ performance and appraisal criteria, and requesting shortlists of diverse candidates all have a positive impact on BAME candidates’ progression within organisations. Setting and publishing targets for BAME representation – as the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 have all done recently – can also help to drive change at every level.

It’s an exciting time to be in the UK’s creative industries. However, if they are to meet the needs of their changing audiences and customers, they also need to mirror their experiences – something that can only be done through a diverse and inclusive workforce. As the Creative Industries Federation report highlights, there are many employers making great progress in this area, but there’s still work to be done.