Is diversity ‘just a trend’? According to Google’s chair of women and head of ads marketing, Nishma Robb, many agencies seem to feel that it is, leading some to focus on ‘inclusivity’ instead. But can you really have one without the other?

Can a workforce that doesn’t champion diversity really be inclusive? Doesn’t inclusivity depend on diversity? Perhaps most importantly, shouldn’t an industry that has been built on innovation and creativity be championing diversity, rather than dismissing it in favour of an ‘alternative’.

Diversity offers objectivity

Without a doubt, businesses should be mindful of having an inclusive workforce – but to dismiss diversity in favour of inclusivity turns both terms in to buzzwords, devaluing each in the process. Whereas inclusivity can be difficult to measure, diversity comes down to statistics. How representative is your workforce? Is there a healthy mix of ages? Is the Board comprised entirely of men? And if so, why? Questions like these offer objective answers that help a business start thinking about their talent and potential.

The answer, however, is not simply to tip the numbers in the ‘right’ direction in order to balance the diversity scales no matter what talent that brings through the door; that is where quotas can do more to damage a workplace culture than resolve it. To create true diversity, businesses need a strategy. For example, introducing unconscious bias training has been well received and made significant positive impact to agencies committed to creating a diverse talent pool.  Something as simple as removing names from CVs is a good step to encourage hiring talent without bias.

Industry intervention

These steps are obtainable for any business, but there is more the industry can be doing. For example, those who are drawn to fields such as science, technology, medicine and engineering because of the status attached may not even consider a role in the creative industries. Whilst giving marketers the option of a chartered status has somewhat professionalised the industry, more needs to be done to change the perception of the sector to those more accepting of traditionally highly intellectual, vocational jobs.

As an industry we need to encourage school engagement programmes that do not just target arts schools and universities, or those with traditionally ‘majority white’ backgrounds, but all schools, challenging the perceptions of what it is to ‘be a creative’ and the career prospects that come with it. If we continue with our current attitude of focusing on greater diversity as a numbers game, we will do the industry a disservice, withholding some of the brightest minds and untapped talent from the future of the creative fields.

When diversity harvests inclusivity

Of course, none of this matters unless businesses have a culture of inclusivity and a determination to create a diverse community. Leaders need to create systems that support inclusivity by encouraging open dialogue, championing fairness and insisting upon authenticity by modelling these behaviours themselves. The more that business leaders can positively take on the role of creating a company culture that embraces different values and cultures, the stronger and more relevant our community of creative experts will become.

A more inclusive workforce will in turn attract a more diverse talent pool, so it is essential that these individuals are not just brought through the door, but remain loyal to the business once part of the team. For example, implementing more family friendly policies and procedures will encourage staff to stay on throughout parenthood. Offering a ‘buddy’ system for leaders that will inspire others throughout the business. Another option is to match new parents with those who already use flexible working, or to identify women who are breaking boundaries or individuals from different backgrounds who can act as role models. Encouraging each member of staff to have a voice, and a platform, will attract others who can relate to one or more of these people and naturally increase the diversity of the community within any agency.

The creative industries are in a strong position to prove that diversity is not a trend; it’s much more than that, and the work we deliver and the reputation we portray must be one of inclusivity.

Aliya Vigor-Robertson

Aliya Vigor-Robertson


Co-founder, JourneyHR