Diversity’s difficult dilemma
For a sector contributing almost £80bn to the UK’s GDP, the technology industry needs a stronger critical mass of direction to challenge its cultural norms. All our children, regardless of origin or heritage, are not just consumers of tech but its future creators. They need the choice to be part of that creation process. To make this happen, we must lead the leaders to a better place.
Digital literacy and challenging attitudes
If the future media workforce is to realise its full creative, vibrant potential, it must be diverse, reflecting the diversity in society. In turn, this means full digital literacy for all and eliminating barriers to entry at all rungs of the careers & educational ladder.
This means eliminating barriers to entry at all rungs of the careers & educational ladder.
It also means a shift in attitudes. We all like certainty; we like what we know; we are creatures of habit & like people who are like us. We tend to educate and hire people in our own image, perpetuating barriers to entry. We need to go outside this comfort zone, become more confident and increase our willingness to foster the futures of people who are different to the norm.
For an ostensibly free sector, control and monitoring butts up uncomfortably against its very premise. But where cultural norms are fundamentally wrong, more is needed. Inherent prejudice perpetuates prejudice. The need to coordinate, test and monitor diversity may feel like anathema, but is in fact key to success.
Diversity enables true audience focus
Even today, many organisations see diversity as a tick in a box. Nice to have. But for media, the stakes are far higher. Creative industries are ultimately all about their audience. And if their culture reinforces stereotypes and imposes barriers to entry, their output risks becoming irrelevant to the audience.
Perhaps the proliferation of shared, user created content across many diverse and uncontrolled platforms is a response to this. Does a generation already feel so excluded in telling its story that it has disengaged, maybe irreversibly?
The human spirit cannot be contained; it will spill over, sometimes torrentially, as it attempts to make sense of the human condition in whatever way it can. If the media sector does not speak to the diverse needs of both current and future generations, it risks being consigned to irrelevance and isolation. To secure its future, the sector must reflect the populace – not just an elite subset within it.
The importance of leadership
How can we reset these cultural norms in an essentially unregulated environment? It presents a dilemma: control inhibits creativity across an industry which relishes its freedom. Finding the right balance won’t be easy, and could have unintended consequences.
That said, we already have bodies that can provide leadership. There is a case to make diversity of audiences, content and workforce a defined part of the remit of public services broadcasters. This would demonstrate strong leadership and blaze a trail for others to follow.The good news is that it is possible to make change happen – but it won’t happen by itself. Allied to strong leadership, organisations must consider how they promote diversity, bearing in mind the maxim that if you cannot measure something, you cannot measure it.
There is clear evidence from HR best practice that cultural change and diversity can be fostered through tangible, discrete initiatives. Many sectors have made similar cultural shifts, often through four distinct phases:
- Promoting awareness
- Establishing a sponsored programme of change
- Deploying enabling frameworks to provide support
- Measuring outcomes via feedback channels
This type of approach is proven to work, but it requires consensus, leadership, and a critical mass of like-minded individuals determined to make change happen.
He is a former Management Consultant, having spent five years at A. T. Kearney, advising and leading on IT Outsourcing and operational efficiency solutions across a broad range of sectors.
He is a graduate of Manchester University, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, FIET, holds a Dip. Law from City University and completed his Bar Finals in 1995. He is the former Chair of the City of London Citizen's Advice Bureau and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.
He is married, with one son, and lives in Islington. Outside of work, his interests include music, and writing screenplays.