Does it Matter if the Creative Industries are Diverse and Why?

This article focuses on whether there is a need for diversity in the creative industries and includes input from different perspectives.

Does it Matter if the Creative Industries are Diverse and Why?(Gold Arts Award Unit 1 Part D)
I have been travelling across London asking people who are either lay members of British society or creative industry professionals themselves about just how important they perceive diversity in the creative industries to be. I asked them if the industries were diverse enough and even whether it mattered in the first place if the creative industries were diverse at all. Personally, before embarking on this project, I held the view that the creative industries were not as diverse as people thought they were. However, throughout the course of my investigation, I have come across some feedback that I find particularly intriguing. For instance, I got a lot of responses that shed light on related issues such as:

Nepotism - patronage bestowed or favouritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics (according to dictionary.com). Nepotism is a form of bias  that can be based on classism, colourist, gender inequality or the like. It also pertains to  the potency of a person’s social network. That is to say, if a person possesses highly influential contacts and associates, they are more likely to receive favouritism and special treatment than someone that does not. Hence, a lot of creative sector professionals argue that a person’s success in the creative industries is highly dependent on who they know in those industries. Therefore, unfavourable nepotism is thus a hindrance (barrier) to accessing entry into the creative sector.
Tokenism - (according to dictionary.com) is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of, for instance, sexual or racial equality within a workforce. It is the apathetically patronising and insincere supposed inclusion of participants representing those typically marginalised in whatever art form such as film and theatre. The main flaw of this practice is that it gives a less realistic depiction of society’s reality and often only renders stereotypical illustrations.
Universalism - in this context, this refers to the mutual experiences of the human race, i.e.: the commonalities of traits, qualities, obstacles and dilemmas that virtually any human being can identify with. When universalism is incorporated to artistic expression in the output for any of the creative industries this results in a much more realistic portrayal of actual society rather than a superficial depiction that does not resonate with enough people accurately.
Stereotype - (according to wikipedia.com) in social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalised belief about a particular category of people. Stereotypes are generalised because one assumes that the stereotype is true for each individual person in the category. While such generalisations may be useful when making quick decisions, they may be erroneous when applied to particular individuals. Stereotypes encourage prejudice and may arise for a number of reasons.
Access - Many people informed me about issues causing barriers to accessing entry into the creative industries including the topics mentioned above. They said reputation in conjunction with nepotism was and still is a strong factor, and that prejudice plus stereotype can either work in one’s favour but also often against it as people may land cliche roles for the sake of tokenism whereas at other times they may not be cast because of issues such as ‘white-washing’. Also, a lack of awareness of how the creative sector’s different industries operate can be a potent hindrance to those wishing to enter as burgeoning professional creatives.
Additionally, people said that the diversity of the creative industries needs to improve as it still does not represent the whole of society accurately on every level of profession in all creative industries. For instance, the senior roles of the creative industries are typically occupied by white middle-class men. It is uncommon to see people of the BAME category or women in top senior positions of the creative industries. According to the online report ‘Why Diversity Matters’ published in January 2015: ‘women account for an average of just 12% in the UK. Women currently remain underrepresented at the top of corporations globally.’ The article also mentioned: ‘The UK does comparatively better in racial diversity, albeit at a low level: some 78% of the UK companies have senior-leadership teams that fail to reflect the demographic composition of the country’s labour force and population, compared to 91% in Brazil and 97% in the US. Furthermore, in July 2017, the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) brought statistics regarding how creative industries in the UK are performing where diversity is concerned; these showed that the creative sector is presently dominated by men. In fact, the creative sector has more men than the entire UK workforce average (63% men and 37% women compared to the UK workforce of 53% men and 47% women). Also, 88% of jobs in the creative sector are conducted by white people and only 11% are conducted by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic).

Regarding whether people believed it matters if the creative industries are diverse, there was a unanimous expression that diversity in the creative industries was in fact essential. The majority of my respondents during my active research said that a diverse creative sector would cause a larger amount, and ideally all, of society’s members to feel validated and included in the artistic storyline of whatever art form may be projecting it. People said that diversity in the creative industries would give an accurate portrayal of society and as a result enrich how deeply we understand the wider community even on a global scale. Seeing an equitable depiction of our world in any art form brings a stronger sense of solidarity through intrigue, interest and identifiability. I myself would say this (the former) is true in the nature of most people as inclusion does bring with it a dignifying satisfaction and a subsequent mutual respect amongst fellow humans; there is a sense of unity and rapport when everyone feels represented and thus involved.

Many people said that it really does matter if the creative industries are diverse as the creative industries are a reflection of actual society and thus its realities. For example, Caroline Wilson (aged 25 and the founder of UNDRLNDN (a youth film platform)) said: ‘I think it’s very important to keep the creative industries diverse because the world is diverse.’  In addition, Marie Vickers (aged 33 and an employee at The London Bubble Theatre) stated: ‘It’s so important that different types of people make it into the creative industries. The arts exist as a form of expression and also as a mirror, as a reflection of what’s going on in society in all communities - that’s what they should do. I think it’s important that what’s in theatres, what’s on our screens and what’s in our books are representative of wider society.’ Additionally, Ella Bennett (aged 23 plus an employee at SUB TV and a burgeoning film director) said: ‘It matters if the creative industries are diverse because people have tastes and they have rights to tastes. Diversity in the creative industries is very important because we have to reflect society - two people can’t do this on their own, thirty people can’t do this on their own, a thousand people can’t do this on their own. It has to be done by a vast majority of people.’ Also, Louise Barnell (a 33 year-old artist, sound artist, producer and performer that also manages arts education programmes at A New Direction) expressed: ‘I think it does matter if the creative industries are diverse. There’s a strong case for diversity in the creative industries and that is that if, for example, you have 80%, 90% of people working in a sector like the film industry, and they’re all white, and they all come from rich backgrounds and many of them are male because the film industry is very male dominated, especially at higher levels, then you do not have the wealth of perspective, the wealth of creativity from different perspectives that could be available if you were to hire people such as more females, BAMEs (people of colour) - those people have different perspectives of what it is like to live, what it is like to experience specific things. When you’re trying to make films and you’re trying to go through a creative process - films, drama, music are often all about communicating different experiences and getting into people’s souls, etc.’ Moreover, people said as well that, hence, an inaccurate representation of society is therefore a rendition of falsehood.

Conjunctly, people also said that when a person’s identity is correctly portrayed by the output of the creative industries (such as films, music and other artistic forms of production), it causes understandable gratification and validation. Whereas, when there is a lack of portrayal in the industries this can cause a sense of alienation and insignificance. Caroline Wilson said: “If people can not see their story expressed in any way they’re going to feel alienated and unimportant.” Furthermore, Adam Annand ( a 53 year old man that works in senior management at The London Bubble Theatre and is also associated with Participatory Arts and the Royal Society for the Arts) stated: “People get on better if their voices are allowed to be heard. The creative industries are a place where people’s voices can be heard. Our creative stories should tell the stories of all people, people’s voices should be heard. Diversity in the creative industries is essential and I think it’s important and I think we have to continue striving for it.” Natalie Clarke (a 33 year old project co-ordinator at the London Bubble Theatre with a career history in theatre and outdoor festivals) expressed: “I think it’s very important that the creative industries are diverse. It think it’s brilliant for bringing social cohesion it means that people can come together and celebrate on a level playing field…I think that just being able to see people from diverse backgrounds in creative fields encourages more people to join in.”. Likewise, Thembe Mvula (a 24 year-old freelance poet and a programmes co-ordinator at A New Direction) shared: “I think it does matter that the creative industries are diverse. I think it matters that all industries are diverse because studies show where there is diversity that’s where you have the most, the best outcomes - I think that’s the case with countries and societies. The more there is diversity the more we’re able to better understand people. Thus, things that we present to the world will be informed by different perspectives.” Sabrina Allicock, a 22 year old performing arts student expressed here opinion: “I think it matters because everyone has a different way of looking at creativity. Some people can see something different from someone else and have a totally different mindset and I think it’s just interesting to know people’s perspective on what they see as art.” Also, Kavina Upadhyay (a 29 year old youth support worker at London’s The Roundhouse) expressed: “I think it does matter if the creative industries are diverse. Creativity is meant to be a form of expression, it empowers people, it gives them a freedom of voice and a way of expressing themselves that is healthy. Particularly in the present climate where there’s unprecedented amounts of challenges with mental health, we’re experiencing more loneliness than ever before in a world that’s probably the most connected. If there is a lack of role models within the industries, less people will be inspired to move in to the industries. Not only that but you’ll have a tunnel-visioned view of what the world is.’ She also raised the rhetorical question: ‘How can you inspire change if you’re not involving the people that the change is trying to address?”. Mark Bennett ( 38 years old and the founder of: HeyBigMan.com, Cause 2 Create and a co founder of Young Creative Council) stated:”I think diversity encourages a different viewpoint, a different opinion, different tastes, different cultures.” Alexa Kara a 17 year old burgeoning film actress stated: ‘100% I believe the creative industries should be diverse and continue to diversify because that is what brings everyone’s ideas together and if everyone remained uncultured and lacked knowledge of different areas then our films would be the same.”

When I asked the people I interviewed if the creative industries were presently diverse enough and whether they needed improvement, these are the responses that I got back:

Remi Suri, a man aged 30 and the founder of Diversity Films interestingly said: “You have to look at the creative industries as being quite forward thinking in terms of diversity, especially in front of the camera, but there is always room for improvement, especially behind the camera.”
Ella Bennett said: “The creative industries are becoming more diverse in terms of cultural heritage but I think there needs to be more diversity in intergenerational collaboration among ages and classes.”
Adam Annand stated: “Where I work and how I work can give an impression of a diverse creative sector. The work I’m involved in is highly diverse: the people I work with, the people that take part, they come from many different backgrounds - in terms of religion, abilities and disabilities as well as ethnically; I work in a way that involves all of those people but that isn’t true across the sector. In the bigger shows, you’ll see it’s predominantly white. The authors of the plays are dead white men and those things need to be changed and addressed. I have to admit, though that things are changing. Now, I’m seeing on TV and on stage much better representations.”
Natalie Clarke mentioned: “My career has been quite long-standing and I’ve worked in various creative sectors, I do definitely believe that it can be more diverse - I think it has gotten better as time goes on. I’ve seen the increase of programmes and proposals encouraging people that are not engaging with the creative industries to join in but I think there’s more that needs to be done.”
In opposition to the cry for improved diversity, there is the argument that it is not actually necessary at all. For instance, the UK’s creative industries are claimed to not be diverse enough at present and economic experts are forecasting better financial returns if the diversity of the creative economy increases and improves. For instance, according to the January 2015 report ‘Why Diversity Matters’, “new research makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.” However, in spite of the affirmation that the creative industries in London and the UK as a whole need to be much more diverse, there is the counterclaim that the nation’s creative sector plus that of its capital single-handedly are thriving and having a significant positive effect on both the national and the capital-city’s economy. According to an article that was published on the Guardian website in August 2018:

‘ …the UK’s creative industries shows they are worth £92 billion a year to the economy … that is bigger than oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics combined.’.
‘In 2016, the UK music industry alone added £4.4 billion to the GDP - up from £4.1 billion in 2015. Exports from the UK music industry rose by 13% to £2.5 billion.’.
‘In 2018, the Summer music festival season saw a revenue increase by 14%.’.
‘Also in 2016, 30 million people attended concerts or festivals, up from 26.7 million two years earlier.’
Moreover, M&C Saatchi creative chief Justin Tindall expressed the following opinion: “I’m bored. Bored of how toothless, gutless and increasingly anodyne our industry has become. Bored of diversity being prioritised over talent. Bored of creative sobriety.” Although, it could be argued that he was tactlessly condemning the practice of tokenism which is a subject that many of the people I interviewed mentioned themselves as something that should be inhibited and addressed with more mindful inclusion of the strata that are so often marginalised and stereotyped insensitively. (https://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/11/03/mc-saatchi-boss-says-justin-tindall-wont-be-fired-over-controversial-diversity)

In the words of Kavina Upadhyay: “How can you inspire change if you’re not involving the people that the change is trying to address?”

In conclusion, I believe that all strata of society, including Black Ethnic minority should be well-represented in the creative sector in order to inspire more and more people.  To achieve this, information on the benefit should be given out to all concerned in order to get their buy in and then be able to make meaningful contribution. This no doubt is the most beneficial action that should be taken by the creative sector. I also believe that it is sensible and proper to include everyone as a member of the world in whatever piece of artistic expression or creativity that is being portrayed - this would be a clear demonstration of diversity and inclusion which appears to have been neglected for a long time. From this research, it was revealed that some people do not believe that diversity in the creative sector matters at all, while others stated that diversity is mentioned only from the perspective of box-ticking (patronising tokenism). However, we have also seen a lot of research that indicates that many people believe that diversity in the creative industries is in deed vital in that it produces authenticity with an empathetic approach to all issues.

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Author

Ruth Eghagha

Ruth Eghagha

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1 Comments

  • Louise Barnell

    On 27 June 2019, 12:49 Louise Barnell commented:

    Hi Ruth, I agree with your points raised above.
    It's interesting that you look at the various types of representation ( or more accurately misrepresentation in the creative industries) I also think there's loads of interesting interviews with people in the creative industry that really add to your argument. The Saatchi quote is very interesting and reflects that we have a long way to go in industry before things are more equal for everyone.

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