By Alysha Radia
I want to talk about diversity.
Racial diversity in this creative industry that we one day hope to call our own.
I look around the room at SCA and notice that I am one of very few faces out of fifty odd that are not white.
I truly believe that this is not a fault of SCA, nor a direct fault of the advertising industry. I do not hesitate to ascertain that in a creative industry that prides itself on becoming more and more inclusive of people of different social classes, levels of education, and that actively seeks out people with neurodivergent tendencies such as dyslexia or ADHD, thinks nothing of hiring someone from an ethnic background. I would like to think that in our industry, talent comes first.
I think the fault is to be shared among the communities themselves, and the industry on a more indirect level. For example, I am from an Indian background and have been very lucky in the fact that my parents have always fully supported and encouraged me, both in my creative and academic endeavors. However, I have faced criticism from family, and family friends, whom with thinly veiled language, suggest I should get a ‘real’ job. They like to pompously announce how their son is now an investment banker and making a tonne of money (they miss out the bit about his recently departed soul), after sheepishly telling them about my Art History degree or the amazing time I’m having at SCA. I’ve even had someone ask me if ‘I knew that I was throwing my parents’ money down the toilet?’.
There is a mentality deep-rooted amongst Asian immigrants at least (I can’t speak for other communities), that financial achievement is the only measure of success, and that this, as well as doing a job that requires a high level of formal education, is the only way of earning respect in wider society. I should probably read up further on the subject, but my understanding is that it stems from an initial push to become financially stable in a new nation. This then developed into a need to continue to compensate for the lack of respect that they should have been entitled as tax paying citizens but were refused, as second-class citizens. There is a mentality that creative jobs won’t earn that lusted after respect.
I refuse to believe that were kids from Black and Asian communities in the UK given space and the chance to grow as creatives, we wouldn’t have a much bigger presence on the scene. There is a lack of presence in schools opening up the industry as a viable option, and educating people about what it entails. I went to a school that was about 40% minorities, that was very good at introducing us to different career options with a wide range of scope, however, we never touched upon advertising. I refuse to believe that were kids from Black and Asian communities introduced to the wonders of having a career in creative advertising they wouldn’t be signing up in their droves and applying to schools like SCA (if they can convince their skeptical parents, that is).
And why is this a problem? Why should we care if they aren’t applying for the schools and the jobs in the first place? Whilst I am normally up for preaching about ethics, I think the problem here is less of an ethical one, but more of a fundamental business one. It’s an issue to do with making better work. Work that WORKS. We are put into pairs to expand the breadth of ideas that our individual experiences and thinking styles can cover. The difference is an advantage and leads to better ideas, and there are many experiences and points of view that can only come from someone from a certain background.
As people that make pieces of communication, we have to know who we are talking to inside out. We need to have the potential to be able to speak to each and every sole that sits behind the TV watching X Factor on a Saturday night, or who catches up on ITV player the morning after. We create personas that help us pitch our pieces of communication to the right audience. But how can someone that hasn’t lived it think up a persona like my nani Pushpa, who watches nothing but Hindi Soaps, except when it comes to reruns of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and Eastenders, which she likes to watch with a cup of chai and a plate of Bourbon biscuits. Or my uncle Ashish, who is Indian through and through, but married an Italian lady and has coined the term ‘Indalians’ to describe their kids. Our lunches at theirs are a feast of vegetarian Indian snacks accompanied by slices of pizza. After all, minorities make up 15% of the national population and almost 50% of the population of London. This is a massive market to be losing out on.
Diversity of minds leads to a diversity of ideas. The way to create new ideas is to create a new breed of creatives.