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How can we make the creative industry more diverse?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Edited by Lemonade Gang member, Lauren Cotter Table Talk Part I

Discussing diversity in the creative industry was an emotional conversation to have, and a difficult topic to convey through a blog. But most things that are important aren’t easy.

We created Lemonade Gang because of the inequality womxn experience, particularly in destructive and dismissive working environments. The more we talked about the injustices of the working world, the clearer it was how many communities were facing the same underlying prejudices and discrimination.

No matter how much we shout about the challenges we face, we never seem to be heard. Instead, many companies suffocate and silence workers corporately, ordering them to fall in line.

Shaped by current events

We started Lemonade Gang during COVID-19, when freelancers were at their

most vulnerable. But at the same time an amazing social change was occurring. The Black Lives Matter movement tore through communities, triggering positive protests across the world and highlighting the privilege afforded to people who fit the mould.

Racism in the workplace is a well-overdue conversation, and we hope BLM has forever changed the way the world speaks about race. It’s certainly made people consider the way we perceive, treat and work with or as people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

As two of Lemonade Gang’s three founders are from ethnic minority backgrounds, we’ve often spoken about how racism impacts our working world. Our discussions have included everything from underlying racism in the creative industries to whether we’ve even realised some of the privileges others are afforded.

Lemonade Gang is proudly built from an incredibly diverse group of intelligent, creative womxn, so it was important for our first Table Talk to centre on diversity. We wanted to focus on whether our community is truly being represented and treated with respect. With this in mind, we reached out to see who wanted to be involved – and had an immediate and passionate response.

The Black Community

During our Table Talk, we spoke about how we’re still seeing very few people of colour, particularly black women, in leading roles within creative industries, even though our laws are supposed to protect us from discrimination. Shockingly, racial slurs are also still the norm across the board.

We also learnt that most black women in the events industry have never worked with another person who looks like them. This huge lack of community presence seems to be the clearest representation of privilege.

Other issues include black people being forced to work for free or for extremely low pay; musicians and producers lacking funds for the technology required to succeed in their industry; and the hurdle of being interviewed by an all-white employer panel who tend to hire people who look like them.

One of our community speakers is the only black person in her company, in an industry that she had to fight tooth and nail to enter. She experienced racism from guests at events – which went unaddressed – leaving her feeling exposed and unsafe in her job. She did not voice her feelings as she felt she would be labelled an ‘angry black woman’ – an oppressive and pervasive stereotype that needs to be eradicated.

No one should face oppression when they’re simply trying to do their job.

The Asian Community

The underlying racism displayed towards the Asian community is an ongoing issue. The lack of respect towards Asian event companies, and the minimal representation in roles of authority, have left the community demotivated and feeling second rate.

The Asian community spends millions each year in the creative industry. But money does not seem to gain it any status. Instead, companies have been known to raise their price point for Asian clients. Is this fair? Is it ethical to put an ‘Asian inflation’ on prices?

Racial slurs used in front of members of the community left individuals feeling powerless. They didn’t speak up in fear of losing their freelance positions at companies in which they’re easily replaceable.

Minority Ethnic Groups

This part of the conversation focused on the Jewish community and white ‘other’ minorities who are equally disrespected by the creative industry.

The experiences we discussed were often relayed by people not from a certain community but who were present when racist comments were made or implied. It was interesting to hear that people seemed to be able to react more coherently to racism when it was not directed at their own race.

So why do we find it easier to combat bad behaviour when it’s not aimed at us personally? We learnt from our talk that people are still concerned about speaking out on their own behalf. They worry for their jobs and their reputation – even when these racist or micro-aggressive actions have a negative effect on their wellbeing and ability to work.

There’s a clear lack of accessibility into certain jobs for some races. This comes in many forms, including the fact that the creative industry expects you to start your career with little or no pay.

Internships are not accessible for many individuals. The creative industry is lucrative once you have a firm foothold in it. But are we making that clear to the younger generation?

A larger issue is the lack of representation. Diverse role models are imperative for the industry to truly thrive.

So what can we do?

Lemonade Gang is introducing a mentoring scheme that pairs young adults with members of our community. This will allow them to learn:

  • The reality of what it takes to work in our individual fields

  • Which subjects to study while at school, college or university

  • Which extracurricular work will improve their chances post-education

  • How to potentially skip internships and head straight into paid work confidently

  • To be so accomplished and knowledgeable that they become a must-have for employers – and not just a statistical hire.

Our Call to Action on Companies

Prior to our Table Talk, we reached out to 5,000 companies with a simple poll on the diversity of their workforce. We had zero response. But our aim is to move forward and create positive relationships with all 5,000 so that they reply with the information we need.

We believe it’s high time people start naming and shaming companies that treat people unfairly. We want to pair you as freelancers with lucrative work, but we won’t partner with discriminatory companies that aren’t aligned with our ethos.

Companies: do you have a diverse group of people on your hiring panel? Or a group of white males? If so, you need to ask yourself why. Does your company structure truly give you the best outcomes?

As a network, we want to help businesses change these underlying issues. Ultimately, we know diversity breeds better outcomes in all areas of the creative industry. So why are we limiting our outputs with singularity?

It’s time for change.

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