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Diversity in the Creative Industries: Levelling the Playing Field

 Tuesday, 8th August, 2017

h.Club Foundation Manager, Bryony Mawdsley, explores why - when it comes to diversity- we haven't quite got it right yet.

The creative industries are still reserved for the privileged few, which is strange really since creativity itself is so indiscriminate. You can’t buy an imagination no matter how high the school fees. So why then do people in creative occupations all seem to come from affluent backgrounds? Indeed they are almost 50% more likely to have had a parent working in a professional position growing up. 
Despite the creative industries employing almost 2 million people in the UK, it remains a pretty exclusive party which, unless you are 'in-the-know', is impossible to get access to. Golden ‘hard-work-can’t-buy’ tickets are rarely advertised but rather are available only directly from those already inside. The real kicker is, if you do manage to find out who could get you access and find a way to connect with them, you still have to figure out how to get there at your own expense, unless of course your parents can afford to give you a free ride. And the journey can be long. 59% of people trying to crack the creative industries volunteered for at least 6 months with 12% working for free for over three years.

Young people are stuck in a cycle of diminishing optimism, no experience means no job and no job means no experience. We talk about millennials being entitled and fussy but we tell them they can be whoever they want to be and then, once they are out of the education system, we tell them to fall in line and take the opportunities which are presented to them, which is slim pickings for many young people. If you don’t believe me, next time you are near a job centre pop in and see how many creative roles are being advertised.

No wonder so many young people are un- or under-employed. When opportunities are given not on merit but through a currency of favours exchanged between friends, is the industry suffering? Is it becoming less relevant to the large portion of our society who are socially excluded from contributing? 
How have we got to a place where employment in the creative industries is so systematically unfair? I don’t believe for a second that creative professionals have conspired to intentionally preserve jobs for their future offspring. In fact, everyone I speak to recognises the problem and is concerned about the lack of diversity. They are simply too busy to do anything about it. Creatives, more than other professionals, tend to be self-employed or work in very small teams. They don’t have large HR teams or CSR teams to facilitate formal work experience programmes and so fall back on people within their immediate networks when they need an extra pair of hands.
This is why we started the Head Start programme. We’re working closely with Tomorrow’s People and the Job Centre to provide opportunities for marginalised young people who want to be given a chance. We’re using The Hospital Club as a backdrop for employability training and creative masterclasses delivered by professionals to help young people explore different careers and build their very own little black books. We are partnering with members who understand that working with young people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, is hugely important if we want to break down the barriers and start diversifying the creative industries. We must continue to champion these young people who are challenging perceptions, defying expectations and shifting the statistics until the playing field has been permanently levelled.

To find out more about the h.Club Foundation, click here.