Updated: Mar 23
Diversity. Inclusion. Intersectionality. BAME. LGBT+.
You can’t help but get lost in buzzword bingo given how much talk there is around these words right now. The world has gradually awoken (or become ‘woke’) to the fact that companies are not representative of broader society.
This presents a huge problem. In the film industry it means typecasting (e.g. the brown guy must be a terrorist) and then unanimous surprise when titles such as Crazy Rich Asians and Blank Panther become smash hits at the box office. In theatre it means plays like Hamilton have to push doubly hard to exist, and eventually bring in the Royals. In sport it means that certain communities feel excluded from the top ranks just because of who they are but then someone like Mo Farah changes the face of it. In politics and journalism it means Islamophobia can spread unnoticed until a few whistleblowers call it out. There are very few industries that are not negatively impacted by a lack of people who are different - not least marketing communications.
When we think about minorities however, it’s easy to think we have low spending power, are too niche and therefore are not worth caring about when it comes to the cold hard numbers of running a business. This is a lazy way of thinking. In 2011 there were 3.2 million South Asians in Britain. This is estimated to grow to 5 million by 2031. In 2016 over 1 million people identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. The state of EU migration is in flux post-Brexit. Britain is a multicultural society but British people from different backgrounds tend to have fewer chances to thrive and survive in business because of who they are and where they come from.
I have been very lucky through my education to grow up feeling British. My previous workplaces have been fantastic places to develop my career - I have made lifelong friends throughout the years and have done award winning and gratifying work. But some ten years after working stint at the Financial Times Deutschland, it dawned on me that while I have gotten better at bringing my LGBT identity to what I do, I had never really brought the Indian side of my identity to my work. As I get older I realise just how much my mannerisms and my thinking have been shaped by my parent’s homeland, and at the same time I realise how important it is for me to shape new traditions to fit and develop British society. I’m not alone. In a recent ComRes survey for the BBC, 54% of British Asians had toned down their Asian identity in order to fit in. In this month’s GQ cover interview, actor Riz Ahmed says it’s about embracing a ‘mongrel manifesto’.
I’ve decided to do just that and have decided to take the leap out of big agency life to launch The Unmistakables. We are a strategic marketing communications consultancy that helps leaders understand minorities. Our mission is to make organisations and campaigns more representative of modern society.
Building an independent consultancy from the ground up is a lot of fun (and very daunting). There's a blank piece of paper when it comes to hiring and we'll push as hard as we can to change the face of the industry. The focus is squarely on being the change, not just talking about it and we are actively looking for people of difference who want to create unmistakable work with us (we're specifically looking for an Apprentice right now).
I’ve lost count of the number of senior leaders across HR, Marketing and Communications who have said to me that they want to take diversity and inclusion seriously, but they don’t know where to start for fear of it becoming just a talking shop or for getting it wrong.