How to... get serious about social mobility
To coincide with the launch of their News School collaboration with the Financial times – a two-week intensive education programme that recruits young people from less advantaged backgrounds - Brooklyn Brothers' Chief Creative Officer George Bryant and Head of Strategy Will Sansom discuss what it means to actively encourage class-diversity.
It is a cruel, if unsurprising, irony that the more work our industry does to tackle diversity and inclusion issues… well, the more that we find there is to do.
It’s why, despite the attention that’s being given to ethnic, gender and sexual diversity, it still feels like there is an elephant in the room. And more importantly, it’s one that potentially closes doors to the creative industries before these other issues are even allowed to become a problem. That thing is social mobility.
69% of those that work in the industry who are BAME were privately educated. Put simply, lack of social mobility is a universal barrier to entry.
We were struck by Lisa Thompson’s brilliant essay written for the IPA, in which she explained that the percentage of people from working class backgrounds decreased from 19% in 2014 to 15% in 2019. But we were genuinely shocked to read that 69% of those that work in the industry who are BAME were privately educated. Put simply, lack of social mobility is a universal barrier to entry.
For this reason, if we’re serious about tackling diversity and inclusion as a whole, we can no longer ignore social class.
But let’s just be clear, this isn’t just advertising’s problem. Indeed, working with the Financial Times, we found that 88% of people who work in publishing are from advantaged backgrounds. It’s why we partnered with the FT to launch News School – a two-week intensive education programme that recruited young people from less advantaged backgrounds, with the aim to help at least 50% of them find full-time paid employment within six months.
One of the reasons social class gets overlooked in D&I meetings is because it makes people nervous to define exactly what it means.
The programme wouldn’t have been possible without expert tutors uniting across the industry including the Guardian, Wall St Journal, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube and the Economist. It taught us an important lesson that whatever we do, it has to be done collaboratively.
So, in this spirit, we wanted to share five simple thoughts, based on our learnings, on how your business could start rolling its sleeves up…
Have the conversation
One of the reasons social class gets overlooked in D&I meetings is because it makes people nervous to define exactly what it means. So, our first piece of advice would be to encourage a collective swallowing of pride, make it ok for people to muddle their terminology – invest in unconscious bias training where you can – but most importantly, have the conversation.
More diverse companies are more effective.
Make it everyone’s business
Once you’ve had the conversation, it’s time to make it everyone’s business – not just the management team or the HR department. Remember, it’s not about responsibility, but rather exploring ways for different people to invest passion and expertise into the cause. And make sure that the business is willing to support this when it comes to them filling in their time sheets!
Do it on the basis of effectiveness not ethics alone
Let’s be realistic – timesheets are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to commercial feasibility of D&I schemes. That’s why we recommend championing the business case – as well as the moral one. More diverse companies are more effective – that’s a good place to start…
Open up different pipelines for recruitment
The definition of madness is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. So why do we continue to recruit in the same way and from the same places? Fixing this includes challenging your established recruitment partners but also working with specialist organisations who need business like yours – Eric Festival, Career Ready and The Prince’s Trust are three that we worked with on News School.
Build a sustainable approach
Our industry enjoys making a good splash, but don’t be tempted to go big and then go home. Instead, start something that you think has the potential to grow. This week The Brooklyn Brothers is extremely proud to launch the second year of its Night School ethnic diversity programme.
The definition of madness is doing the same thing but expecting a different result.
Year one was unashamedly an experiment but one that built the foundations for what we hope will be a successful second year with our graduate alumni from 2019 returning to pay it forward and collaborate with industry experts on this year’s programme.
Diversity and Inclusion issues won’t be fixed in a year, so whatever we do, we have to be there for the long term and most importantly – in it together.