A call to young media professionals
Mihir Haria-Shah asks his industry colleagues to play their part in helping make adland a more diverse place to work
Shanice Mears rightly called out the industry and asked for deeds, not words. From conversations I’ve had with those who have been pushing for diversity and change for many more years than I have, I can see why.
Although the conversation is always welcome, it is often met with a slump of shoulders and a cynical eye roll. “Why would an industry that has been talking about change for so long actually change this time around?”
But I believe it can be different.
For a long time in this industry young people have felt unable to be heard outside of their own small circles. But the Black Lives Matter movement has united young media professionals across the board and there is an onus on us to drive this change forward and not let the industry rest on its laurels or lose momentum for change.
It will require sustained energy and continual resistance - but ultimately, we’re fighting for the workplaces and colleagues we will inherit managing and running.
Here are a few ways I feel we can achieve this.
Hold leadership to account
A traditional blocker to young professionals being vocal about the issues that matter to them has been the fear that if you challenge your senior leadership team, you will then be seen as a troublemaker and a black mark will go against your name.
More than 200 leaders signed an open letter pledging concrete change to the industry - this is an invitation for dialogue and to hold signatories to account. This is an active and public pledge that has been made and you are allowed to hold them to account and to push them. You are not a troublemaker for doing so. Ask for diversity reporting to be included alongside financial reporting in company meetings, check in on your agency's actions and ask what else is in the pipeline.
Be a role model
Last week Ally Owen of Brixton Finishing School told us of the barriers to entry for new talent trying to break into the industry. Nearly half of a recent survey of Brixton Finish School graduates stated that “there are no role models or mentors for people like me." We are the generation that can become those role models.
If you personally make a commitment to change then you will start to become recognised as an advocate and an ally. This commitment can come in many different shapes and sizes.
It can include setting up diversity committees which encourage your peers to share views regularly in a safe space, sharing resources and information regularly amongst your agency and inviting guest speakers from outside of the industry to share their learnings on marking a positive difference. Keep writing articles in our trade press, keep posting on LinkedIn.
Be brave enough to challenge the clients you feel are misstepping or simply not doing enough. Put yourself forward as a mentor, via schemes such as Brixton Finishing School. Make an effort to educate your local community - which is something I’ve written about before.
Vote with your feet
This industry is built on talent. Agencies are made great by the people who work for them. As young media professionals we are the bedrock of this industry and can shape it by taking our talents to those who we feel best represent us. If you feel you are not and cannot be heard, then turn to those who have pledged change and are seeing it through.
I’m not just talking to those from a BAME background here. All young media professionals should be brave and use their voices and actions to promote the issues that matter to them, whether internally, at industry events, via social media or where you choose to work. As a collective we need to be louder than ever before. We can be heard.
Mihir Haria-Shah is Head of Broadcast at Total Media