As newly appointed Editor-In-Chief of The Broad, I’ve been spending time looking at the demographics of student journalists, editors, contributors, and, largely, I have been greeted with a white wall.
There are not only massive differences between numbers of white and BME students completing degrees and attaining top grades, particularly at ‘prestigious’ universities, but these discrepancies are particularly noticeable when it comes to the creative sector. In the 2012 Employment Census, BAME representation across the creative industries was shown to have fallen to 5.4% (https://creativeaccess.org.uk/about-us/), whilst the BAME population of the UK was 14%, and in London – arguably the creative centre of the UK – the population were 40% BAME. This is in no way proportional representation. Similarly, we have found that within our company, we are massively underrepresenting huge swathes of students. As an ethnic minority, I have found myself actively trying to recruit other people like me to become part of an organization who pride ourselves on publishing opinions from across the spectrum. The problem appears to be that, though I would argue that we do extremely well in representing working class journalism – as we are often the ones with a great deal to report on, particularly in the middle-class realm of higher education – we have had very few applications from people of colour.
Though ‘box-ticking’ is, obviously, a huge issue, underrepresentation is more so, because you can’t be what you can’t see. As someone who ticks many boxes – mixed race, female, working class – the last thing that I would like to think is that I have only got positions that I’ve worked hard for because of the diversity quotas that I help to fill. However, I don’t believe ‘positive discrimination’ is a bad thing, I see it as a re-balancing of the scales. I know that I keep jobs because of personal merit, though I’m equally aware that sometimes my applications may get put to a focused pile because of diversity quotas. Though this is a form of selection based on colour, gender, and all the other things that we are doing this in order to avoid choices being made upon, it is done for good. Once we manage to incorporate people into industries in which they are underrepresented, we will no longer need to do this.
In an ideal world, BAME-only applications would become a thing of the past, because they will no longer be necessary, as industries will represent societal demographics – at all levels. Until then, we need to encourage people to look to the industries they never even considered, because they never saw anybody like themselves in them. So if you have ever had a thought about a creative, or otherwise, industry be quashed down by societal or familial expectation, or by the voice in your head that tells you they aren’t interested in the likes of you, then prove that voice wrong. Creative industries need our voices, younger people need to see us succeed, and so does everybody else.