Diversity is a topic that continues to dominate the headlines across the UK. In the creative industry alone, Project Diamond, an initiative managed by The CDN (Creative Diversity Network) to capture the equality monitoring data of all those working on programmes commissioned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, has been boycotted by unions in both the UK and US. The initiative, which aims to encourage the British media industry to fairly represent Britain's diversity both on and off-screen was vetoed by the unions after broadcasters said they would only publish data for genres and job grades, not individual programmes or series.
In the same week figures have been published that suggest diversity at CEO level is still not up to scratch. The increase in international boards being listed in the UK has helped the figures rise and diversity has occurred as a by-product of what companies are doing abroad rather than it being due to efforts in the UK. Which makes me wonder if we, as business leaders, are doing enough?
As MD of a future-facing digital agency, which has two women on the management team and a very diverse team consisting of 30 nationalities, diversity means having people from different walks of life bringing varied ideas to the table which I have found enriches the work we produce and the environment we work in.
I'm lucky to work with two senior women which is still, in 2017, a rarity in my industry rather than the norm. I'm certain that having them on board, along with the social diversity I see in the team, has helped us understand not only our clients' needs better but more importantly our clients' customers' needs better. I'm aware we need to do more and I'm not sure all industries are as diverse, or are bringing diversity into the mainstream, especially when I switch on my TV or look at the ads being pushed on my Facebook stream.
Look at retail for example, which should reflect the world outside in the range of products they produce. However, the recent Dreams adverts show a white, middle-aged couple watching their child grow older as the mattress changes throughout the various ages too, as they treasure family moments. Surely all ethnicities and LBGT communities shop for mattresses too? Next, on the other hand, has a great track record for showing women and men of different ethnicity and body shapes within its campaigns which I would argue helps them to reach a wider audience.
Studies in retail and hospitality have shown that gender-diverse businesses have better financial outcomes than those dominated by one gender. This is worth considering when building teams as well as when brands are creating content. However, recent research found that just 19% of people in adverts are from minority groups, making the case for diversity to be reflected on-screen as well in real world.
I thought Coke handled the diversity issue well with the recent advert showing a brother and sister fighting for the attention of a good-looking pool boy, only for their mum to get to him first. It tackles sexuality, gender, race and ageism, a lot for one ad. It shows it can, and is, being done so let's bring this into our businesses too.
I'm not standing on a soapbox but I do think diversity shouldn't be seen as an obligation but rather, something for businesses to embrace. As a white, male MD it can be difficult to say the 'right' thing on the topic of diversity but that's not going to stop me. This is why I encourage my company to be actively involved in initiatives like Creative Equals and She Says and continue to look for opportunities to recruit and retain talented people from a range of backgrounds.