D&I is a hot button topic right now and rightly so, but what exactly can you do when only 3.5% of the sector is from a black or brown background. I can count on two hands the amount of black or brown people I worked with during my seven year event career and on one hand those who were in a senior role.
This is not right of course, however a lot of the “initiatives” businesses are taking on feel more like smoke and mirrors than instigating real change for the future of our industry.
Many think that taking an inclusive approach to the recruitment process is the first step, but in reality, it needs to start way before that. This is not a ‘Field of Dreams’ situation; we can build it but they won’t come because primarily this is a white industry and with only 3.5% of event profs being black, or brown, where exactly is this talent pool you’re casting your fancy new D&I rod into?
If companies start their D&I journey with recruitment then we could be in danger of simply passing the same candidates around each agency, satisfying the quota of the agency that they are currently employed by, before being headhunted to satisfy the quota of the next agency. If we take this approach not only is it shallow and short-sighted it also could mean that candidates are promoted sooner than they should be, and to be honest, it’s just plain wrong.
What we need to do instead is to step back and see the bigger picture and look to the future and find ways of attracting more people from diverse backgrounds into the industry in the first place – primarily by helping them on to the university and college courses and apprenticeship programmes.
We have all been impacted by the events of the past year, and a vast number of people have left our industry, with about 10% of those saying that they will not be returning. Covid may also have impacted on the number of people seeing events as a sustainable career and deterred people from courses and from entering in the first place.
But one positive is that we have had the light shone on us – aided by amazing campaigns such as ‘One Industry, One Voice’ and ‘We Make Events’ – and I hope that this attention will help to draw more people from a variety of backgrounds into our industry. But even this isn’t enough, we all need to take positive action now to find ways to bring more diversity to our industry for the future.
I myself have created a working party to collaborate with one of the UK’s top universities on a secret squirrel project that we will be launching later in the year to increase the numbers but that will take three to four years to affect our industry.
I’m not saying stop talking about D&I, what I am saying is let’s make some actionable change rather than pretty words on a website.