This week marks a year since the wheels were properly set in motion for The Other Box.
I was at one of those diversity-in-the-advertising-industry talks. Each speaker had compelling stories to tell about the work being done to help tackle the lack of ethnic diversity in the advertising and marketing worlds.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last, that I found myself looking at a panel of speakers where there were no women of colour. At an event about ethnic representation, this felt particularly problematic.
"I found the lack of representation stifling. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I just knew I couldn’t keep quiet."
By that point, I was waking up every morning thinking about how lonely I felt as a brown woman in my daily work. I was still (and still am) very much in love with my job. I wanted to keep doing it and take my career further. But I found the lack of representation stifling. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I just knew I couldn’t keep quiet. When you wake up thinking about something every single damn day, you can only ignore it for so long, ya know?
At the event, it was clear that plenty is being done to get people in to the industry. There’s a plethora of worthy causes, providing pathways for people who are underrepresented in our industry, to kickstart a career they may not have otherwise considered. Great. But there was still the sense that the industry is struggling to keep those people, once they’re in.
"You might just have to go ahead and be one of the pioneers."
During the event Q&A session, I raised my hand. I pointed out the distinct absence of women of colour on the panel. I said I felt invisible. I asked: ‘What advice do you have to someone like me, 5 or 6 years into their career, who doesn’t see herself reflected in creative teams, especially at senior level, who’s thinking of giving it all up, because she feels like she doesn’t belong at the top?”
There was an apologetic shuffle from the panelists. A brief quietness. And then a response: ‘You might just have to go ahead and be one of the pioneers.’
So here we are, a year on from that advice, 7 short months into something we have the highest hopes for. It’s not easy. But we’ve already met dozens of people who see what we see, and want to take action. We’re not alone. We’re excited about what’s to come, and determined to change things for the better.
(p.s. If you’re curious (of course you are!) about who those other people are, we’ve been shouting them out on our Instagram feed every Friday.)
Images courtesy of: @elisamacellari