16 October 2020
Our intention behind the series is to help usher in a more equitable world by sharing:
This inaugural piece by Callum Towler, Strategy Director and Head of I&D, is about the fight for a sense of radical representation in the UK creative industry, closing with the actions we’re taking as a business to instill a sense of fairness in to the way we hire.
Systemic racism in Britain has a different character to its counterpart in the States. It’s more insidious and unsaid. It’s not windpipes being closed before our eyes. It’s windows of opportunity. To be Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic in the UK is to face an uphill battle with regards to finding employment, securing fair pay and job security.
In the reckoning against racism we’re currently living through, we’ve been forced to look at the institutions we call home and realise the lack of diversity we tacitly accepted as the status quo prior to George Floyd’s murder.
And we’ve come to expect nothing less than action from the businesses we work for (and buy from) – not blacked-out logos and words of solidarity on social. Because what good is posting a black square when you have the power to hire black people?
Scott Galloway captured the new expectation of action perfectly when he said:
“Actions that address social justice are powerful messages. Messages about the importance of social justice are just messaging. We are the sum of our actions, not our words. Firms, and all of us, are learning we need to be more.”
In this new climate, companies like PepsiCo, Barclays and Deloitte have responded by committing to admirable representation quotas. After all, without targets focusing minds, even the most well-intentioned can fall back on the same nepotism, homophily and unconscious biases that govern who we decide as “right” for our tribe.
If we zoom in to the UK creative industry for a moment, the data reveals the quest for equality extends far beyond the signifier of race. Yes there is still much progress to be made in senior leadership, with just 5.5% of the industry’s C-suite being BAME. However it’s a hopeful sign that the industry wide figure of 13.8% has almost reached parity with the country’s 14%.
It may be unfashionable to say it, but social class is often the missing ingredient of these debates. And it’s where we see the starkest disparity in our industry, with just 12% coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds despite making up almost half the population. As the world zeroes in on racial inequality, we mustn’t make a generation of white working class kids the casualty of progress.
The next largest disparity is with people with disabilities, who account for 19% of our country but just 11% of the creative industry. The mere fact that physical disability rarely impairs the sharpness and singularity of someone’s thinking is a stain on an industry whose currency is creativity.
At Revolt, we have made the commitment to be as representative inside the business as our society outside it – at the absolute minimum – over the next 3 years. To get there we’ve set targets for all underrepresented groups, which include: BAME, state school educated (as a proxy for social class), people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ and women (gender is analysed across all groups to ensure equality).
But targets without a strategy are doomed to fail. So we’ve reconsidered our hiring process in number of ways that we wanted to share:
> Always-on interviews: every leader across the business has been tasked with conducting one interview a fortnight. The thinking is the more talent we meet, the more diverse the pool we have to draw on once positions become available. It also shifts the responsibility of I&D from a handful of people to every leader in the business.
> 20% interview quota: at least 20% of the people we interview must come from underrepresented groups. To facilitate this, we’ve installed a mandatory 4-week hiring lead time – regardless of how urgent the need is.
> Blind CVs: we will follow our client DO’s guidelines to remove applicants names, universities and grades from CVs to erode our basic biases. We’ll supplement the ‘blindness’ by asking our recruiters to meet our 20% quota with the shortlists they provide.
Our intention isn’t to box-tick or fall foul of positive discrimination. After all, nobody wants their identity marker to be the reason they’re in the room.
Ultimately we aim to always hire the best person for the job, and we believe these steps erode our biases and establish an equality of opportunity that over time will turn representation into a reality.
Head of Diversity & Inclusion