Computer Arts - - Industry Issues - OTEGHA UWAGBA

pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions. It’s cru­cial that you don’t base changes on the ex­pe­ri­ence of non-dis­abled em­ployee as­sump­tions.”


“The drop off in women in ad­ver­tis­ing and de­sign is huge,” says Casey Bird, pres­i­dent of SheSays, a net­work­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion for women in the cre­ative in­dus­tries. “This is of­ten be­cause of a lack of sup­port when it comes to moth­er­hood and flex­i­ble work-life bal­ance. This makes many women think, ‘What’s the point?’ and sack it off.” In 2015, SheSays launched its Who’s Your Momma men­tor­ing scheme (WYMM), which pairs fe­male cre­atives at dif­fer­ent lev­els of their ca­reers, to pro­vide a sound­board on chal­lenges such as how to ask for pay rises or deal with gen­der bias. “Un­til I started work­ing at SheSays, I could barely count the num­ber of se­nior women I knew on one hand,” re­calls Bird. “Pro­grammes like WYMM re­ally help break the cy­cle.”

Roshni Goy­ate, co-founder of The Other Box – a plat­form for in­creas­ing di­ver­sity in cre­ative in­dus­tries – agrees: “I specif­i­cally wanted a brown, fe­male, work­ing class, not pri­vately ed­u­cated se­nior per­son as a men­tor,” she says. “I asked ev­ery­one I knew, and most had ba­si­cally never worked with an­other per­son of colour. It made me feel like I have no place in this in­dus­try. I hon­estly thought about quit­ting and start­ing a whole new ca­reer.”

Men­tor­ing schemes can also be run in­ter­nally. King, the games com­pany be­hind Candy Crush Saga, runs a scheme called Women@King, which pro­motes equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in gam­ing. King is also in­volved with Roy­aLGBT & Friends, a global net­work that sup­ports LGBT+ em­ploy­ees and al­lies.

In­ter­est­ingly, King has re­cently started re­fram­ing ‘di­ver­sity’ as ‘in­clu­sion’. “With in­clu­sion, we look as whether peo­ple feel re­spected and val­ued,” says the com­pany’s di­ver­sity and cul­ture man­ager Natalie Mellin, who also points out that peo­ple usu­ally fit into more than one ‘cat­e­gory’. “From an in­ter­sec­tional per­spec­tive, I’m not just a woman – I also have a sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, a skin colour, and so on,” she says. “There will be dif­fer­ent is­sues for gay women, for black women.”

This think­ing has also bled into King’s prod­ucts. In its work­shop scheme called Crush The Norm, de­sign­ers can iden­tify ways they are por­tray­ing gen­der or race (even in squir­rels) and learn to chal­lenge stereo­types. “There’s a growth in the type of peo­ple that are gamers to­day be­cause of the mo­bile phone,” ex­plains Mellin. “We want ev­ery­one to feel in­cluded.”

Agency ustwo has also made a con­scious move to­wards gen­der equal­ity. De­signed to dis­rupt the statis­tic that only 12 per cent of cre­ative di­rec­tors in Lon­don are fe­male, ustwo’s new lead­er­ship pro­gramme for fe­male em­ploy­ees in­volves women sit­ting in on all lead­er­ship meet­ings. “If you see how de­ci­sions are made, you’re more likely to think, ‘I can do that’,” says Fuchs. In March, the stu­dio an­nounced that male and fe­male em­ploy­ees can now both take the same ma­ter­nity leave – six months paid leave – and in the past year they’ve re­duced their gen­der pay gap from 13 per cent to 3.5 per cent by in-depth anal­y­sis of pay dif­fer­ence and why it hap­pens. The stu­dio reg­u­larly blogs about their di­ver­sity chal­lenges and strate­gies – some­thing Pun stresses is im­por­tant. “Your ac­ces­si­bil­ity and di­ver­sity cham­pi­ons should ac­tively at­tend events and share sto­ries on so­cial me­dia.” This is

not brag­ging or virtue sig­nalling, but a way to flag to de­sign­ers from un­der-rep­re­sented group that your com­pany would be an in­clu­sive place to work.

Both Sairah Ashman – Wolff Olin’s newly ap­pointed (and first fe­male) CEO – and Ije Nwoko­rie, who she suc­ceeds, sug­gest that part of over­com­ing the dis­par­ity be­tween the num­ber of fe­male em­ploy­ees and fe­male lead­ers is re­defin­ing what those top jobs look like. “You have to be hon­est enough to in­ter­ro­gate why women are not at­tracted to that po­si­tion,” says Nwoko­rie. Ashman adds: “I’m a rel­a­tively quiet per­son, you wouldn’t hold me up as a poster woman for lead­er­ship, but at Wolff Olins, we’ve broad­ened the plat­form enough that you can pull up lots of dif­fer­ent peo­ple and points of view.”

To ad­dress this, em­ploy­ees could re­con­sider in­creas­ing em­ploy­ees’ ac­cess to train­ing and ex­per­i­ment with re­verse men­tor­ing, where the cre­ative di­rec­tor shad­ows a ju­nior em­ployee to see where is­sues may be aris­ing. Clear goals for pro­gres­sion and pro­mo­tion can help and, in case things go wrong, make sure your HR sup­port is as in­de­pen­dent as pos­si­ble.


Know­ing your own value is also in­te­gral for those from un­der-rep­re­sented groups. It can help to push the in­dus­try to value di­ver­sity more widely. “Em­brace your cul­tural iden­tity; it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bar­rier,” says Bun­bury. “In all things you do, you should be draw­ing from a wide cre­ative cul­tural pal­ette, it’s the thing that will give you unique­ness and make your work stand out,” he ex­plains.

Self-pro­mo­tion and putting your­self for­ward may also de­ter some peo­ple. “At the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer I strug­gled to speak out,” says Roz Fraser, se­nior de­signer at GBH, “but I’ve been for­tu­nate to work un­der both men and women who have pushed me, and now I feel a lot more con­fi­dent at self-pro­mo­tion.” Alice Tonge, head of 4cre­ative, agrees: “If some­one shoots you down you’ve got to keep on go­ing. Be re­silient and re­lent­less.” Re­sources like Otegha Uwagba’s new ti­tle Lit­tle Black Book are in­valu­able for cre­ative women – and in­deed all cre­atives – in de­vel­op­ing strate­gies for things that hold them back.


When you’re not in a man­age­rial role or are self-em­ployed, it may feel like changing an in­dus­try-wide di­ver­sity is­sue is out of your grasp, but there are lots of things you can do. “Talk about it,” says Kath Tudball, de­sign di­rec­tor at The Part­ners. “No­tice hid­den bi­ases and in­equal­i­ties and speak up about them.” From call­ing out of­fen­sive of­fice ‘ban­ter’ or re­fus­ing to sit on judg­ing pan­els or give talks un­less there’s a rep­re­sen­ta­tive mix of peo­ple to ask­ing new em­ploy­ees whether they’re okay with what­ever pro­noun you have as­sumed to use, be­ing open and hon­est is a good way to start be­ing an ally. Push clients to re­think their au­di­ence or in­clude more di­verse faces in their cam­paigns, and draw on re­sources like il­lus­tra­tion net­work Women Who Draw (where you can find fe­male, LBTQ+ or peo­ple of colour spe­cial­ist il­lus­tra­tors), racially di­verse photo li­brary Au­to­graph Me­dia and stereo­type-bash­ing mod­el­ling agen­cies, such as Camp­bell Addy’s Nii Agency.

Uwagba, who founded the cre­ative net­work­ing plat­form Women Who, says that even free­lancers have the abil­ity to make a dif­fer­ence. “It’s about the com­pa­nies you en­dorse. Vote with your feet. Em­ploy­ers want the best staff work­ing for them and if they re­alise they’ve got a rep prob­lem then that starts to have an ef­fect.”

Neck­les sums up why you should be ad­dress­ing di­ver­sity: “If you’re se­ri­ous about ex­ist­ing, then you should be se­ri­ous about widen­ing the pool of peo­ple that you work with and learn from.”

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