Attracting and including a wide and diverse talent pool is a must for any forward-thinking team. Breaking down socio-economic barriers is not only a just cause but also smart business.
The creative industries are no exception. There are forward-thinking employers within the industry who are already making socioeconomic inclusion a goal in their organisations, but the fact is there is still much work to be done. Making progress will be challenging: this is a hugely diverse sector which cannot be submitted to a one-size-fits-all approach. The widespread use of freelancers means creative businesses need to look beyond those they directly employ and work collaboratively with other organisations to achieve real change. The industry also houses organisations of all sizes – from small boutique companies to larger corporate firms – though the majority (i.e. 95%) are micro businesses (fewer than ten employees).
But there are strong arguments for rising to the challenge, in whatever way you can, no matter your size: not having a dedicated team shouldn’t stop you doing what this sector does best and ‘thinking creatively’ to address socioeconomic diversity and inclusion (as some of our success stories have done). After all, large parts of this sector play a significant role in shaping the national conversation – so representation matters. This sector knows better than any other that diversity breeds creativity.
As this toolkit will attest, the workforce of the creative industries is heavily skewed towards those who are from more privileged backgrounds, with 52% of those employed coming from high socio-economic or professional family backgrounds despite that group only making up 37% of the general working population.
The sector has an inflated concentration of those who were privately educated – for example 44% of newspaper columnists, influential editors and broadcasters attended an independent school, over seven times the national benchmark. In turn, this creates a ‘sense of fit’, ensuring that those from privileged backgrounds ‘appear intrinsically more suitable’ and creating a hiring and progression cycle that favours dominant behavioural codes (around dress, accent, taste and etiquette).
Unfortunately, a number of practices that are commonplace throughout the industry do not support socio-economic inclusion. Its high reliance on freelancers with a third of the creative industries workforce self-employed (including freelancers), double that of the UK workforce, presents a lack of financial security and stability which is not conducive to attracting individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
We know that people from working class backgrounds are three times less likely to be able to, or to want to, move from their local area, so the fact that over half the creative organisations in the country are concentrated in London and the southeast presents a barrier to entry. Unpaid internships act as a barrier to those who cannot afford to work for free and prove inaccessible to those who do not have the social or familial networks to secure a placement informally. The importance of these networks for hiring, particularly at short notice on project-based work, means those without connections, no matter how talented, can be excluded.
As such, most creative organisations are only at the beginning of their social mobility journey. They recognise that increasing socio-economic diversity brings a range of benefits and are looking for opportunities to improve and help overcome the challenges, so that they can achieve these benefits for themselves.
This practical toolkit can support you to do just that. It has been created because you, the creative industries community, have asked for it. Whether you’re in gaming, architecture, theatre, design, advertising, fashion or museums and heritage, it presents a roadmap for how you can benefit from increasing socio-economic diversity and inclusion – whether you’re only starting out on this journey or have ambitions to be among the best. Ultimately, it provides guidance to help you drive improvements in society, the economy and people’s lives, as well as the inspiration, success and fulfilment that your organisation exists to deliver.
It supports those forward-thinking employers in the creative industries who are addressing a new frontier in their diversity and inclusion agenda – to find, attract and develop employees, artists and freelancers from all socio-economic backgrounds. Your background shouldn’t determine your future. And yet, for too many people in our society, it does. We, as employers, can do more to help people from all backgrounds thrive in work, while also improving our own operations.
The biggest advantage of being an industry made up of smaller businesses is the capability to operate dynamically and with autonomy to change. These tools are practical and proven – both by employers within the creative industries and other sectors. They work. Many are simple, low cost and relatively easy to do. And the rewards can be immense – not just to individuals, but also to the business.
This is important work and we all have a role to play. Join us and other employers from around the UK who are looking to improve social mobility.