In honour of Black History Month (Oct 2019), The Qube revamped their usual weekly Knowledge Academy into an open forum, where all were encouraged to attend, participate and share their views.
To guide the conversation, the discussion centred around 3 topics: the importance of Black History Month and why it is celebrated, black representation in the media, both in advertising content and within the advertising workforce, and what AdLand can do to increase representation, diversity and inclusion in these areas.
The informal discussion began with the audience agreeing that Black History Month was important to raise awareness of the black experience, and their contribution to society. This led to an audience member admitting that she although she was interested in black culture, she was uncertain what questions to ask, in case she caused offence. She now felt more open to having those conversations.
After reviewing several examples of both good and bad representation of black individuals in adverts, many made the link between lack of representation in the workforce equating to lack of authentic representation in advertising. For the better examples, some saw the adverts as refreshingly authentic portrayal of Black life, while others believed brands were capitalising on black culture as a trend, potentially fuelling stereotypes.
This raised the topic of diversity in the workplace, with many agreeing that whilst Black representation in the workplace is fine at junior level, it begins to fizzle out once these people hit mid-manager roles. One man, who openly discussed his mixed heritage, mentioned the reason for this being ‘visualisation’- people can’t be what they can’t see, highlighting the lack of representation in senior roles. The discussion moved onto what the potential solution would be, from fast-tracking talented individuals to the top, to case-studies on companies that are doing well to promote diversity. Other ideas included removing the term ‘BAME’, as it may label all those who are seen as ‘non-white’ by “lumping” them together, with the danger of the few representing the many.
These points also raised counter-arguments, such as the term ‘BAME’ existing to highlight the lack of representation, the idea of positive discrimination still being a tick-box exercise if individuals are fast-tracked because of their ethnicity, and difficulty finding examples of companies in media who are doing exceptionally well at promoting diversity.
The session ended with a view from two individuals, one non-black and one with Caribbean heritage, who believed we need to constantly be talking about diversity, inclusion and representation in the media, to continuously raise awareness and better understand the steps we can take to push barriers and evoke change.
A People Partner for the business said, “This event was very insightful and demonstrated a wide diversity of opinion and perspective. Ensuring this conversation continues is fundamental to challenging the status quo and educating each other to be more aware of the barriers we face to realising true equality and representation in work as well as society a whole.”
The Black History Month: Knowledge Academy was held at the Qube on Wednesday 30th October, and organised by: Katherine Salmon, Account Director, Liveposter and Nadia Atchia, Marketing Executive, Posterscope