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You are NOT a label

The creative industries are one of the fastest growing  sectors in the UK with the number of jobs across the UK increasing up to 2.8 million in 2014. A figure that has grown each year.

Diversity is still an issue in many industries across the country. What does this mean for minorities when it comes to working in the creative industry?

Our team member Khanyie Shamakumba gives us an insight on diversity in the industry from her own experiences…

Why do you talk white?

A question I have been asked by more people than you can imagine, usually people of my own race. My response is always along the lines of asking a question back “what exactly do you mean by talking white?”.

Being a young woman of colour (if that’s the PC term now), it seems I am expected to speak a certain way.

So why does it feel like I’m being penalised for speaking fluent English?

I speak fluent English because I was lucky enough to have been brought up already speaking English, receive a good education (I really enjoyed my phonics lessons in primary school), and no other reason. I always excelled in all things ‘expressive’, and working in the creative industry became my ambition. Choices, decisions and goals were set on achieving that ambition, and now here I am – working in a creative agency, which, for me, is a pretty big deal!

We all eventually get jobs (well, most of us), but why is working in a creative agency a big deal to me?

I recently read a very interesting blog on diversity in creative industries, which inspired me to write this post as I realise just how lucky I am to be where I am. It brought me back to the reality of how difficult it can be to land yourself a job in a creative agency when you’re an ethnic minority. I’ve never been one to close doors to opportunities just because statistics tell me that’s the way things are.

There are statistics telling me that BAEM (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority) representation in the creative industries has been falling in recent years. Why is this even a thing?

Why should it matter whether I’m White, Black, Asian, gay, straight, Christian, Buddhist, male or female what kind of career I end up in? Or change the way I’m viewed within a work place by peers or employers?

Those who know me will probably know that I’ve been deemed a minority for 99% of my life, first being the only girl with 2 brothers, being the only girl in my primary school football team, being the only black girl in high school. But all of these things didn’t matter to me because I didn’t know any different.

Not everyone is lucky enough to not know any different.

Diversity in the workplace is an issue in the creative industry at the moment, but I wonder how different this industry could be if people didn’t label and limit themselves and adhere to the stereotypes that tell them what they can and can’t do. The ones that tell them how they should or shouldn’t speak, what sort of job they’re ‘right for’ or where they ‘fit into’ because of a culture derived from labelling.

Myself and many other people who are minorities are on their journey towards achieving their goals, but what I’d say to these people is that no matter your background, gender, religion or sexuality, set your targets – big or small – and don’t limit yourself. It’s easier said than done, I know.

We’ve all heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and the number of times people say “I can’t” without trying. Personally, I feel this self-limitation has become engrained into the lives of minorities, and that’s now become the social norm. Anyone agree?

One of the few ways I can see that the creative industry, and many other industries, can move on from the ‘diversity crisis’ is through individuals. Minorities need to give themselves a break – it’s rare that we get them from anyone else – and people need to start believing that they can do things that are, at the moment, out of the ordinary.  And it’s just that, that has allowed me to achieve something that is (statistically speaking) ordinarily extraordinary, but should really be extraordinarily ordinary!

Jess Ramsey
jess@wearecreo.co.uk