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What's the creative industry doing about diversity?

Seven organisations championing diversity and inclusion

There’s no denying that when it comes to diversity the creative industry is still a work in progress. Only 11.4% of industry jobs are filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and just 11.5% of creative directors in the US are women. And that's before we've even mentioned the challenges faced by young creatives that can't afford to take on unpaid internships.

However, while there are still huge leaps to be made, there are organisations addressing these disparities – whether through paid internships that favour talent over education, or mentorship opportunities and programmes that raise awareness in the industry. Read on for an ever-expanding list of companies, programmes and initiatives that are stepping up to the plate.

The Other Box

This fledgling platform sets out to increase diversity in the industry, with a series of head-on interviews, and events that showcase creative talent at all levels in the industry. The Other Box is building a community of people to address the lack of diversity, and get the attention of those at the highest levels.

“If minority people don't see themselves reflected in higher positions within our industry, it gives out the message that they don't belong there, and they're less likely to apply,” says co-founder Roshni Goyate. “We've heard so many stories of people reaching mid-level and leaving the industry, because they don't see their careers going any further. That's really sad. The industry has been too complacent for too long. Everyone needs to work harder to attract more diverse creatives, and keep them too.”
​​The Other Box

We Are Stripes

We Are Stripes

This UK initiative creates and supports opportunities for the BAME community – helping mid- and senior-level creatives navigate the next stages of their careers, and junior creatives to break into the industry with Stripes-supported intern programmes. A community of members supports and mentors each other, and We Are Stripes partners with educational and training organisations to host study programmes and workshops. 

“We're seeking to change from the top and build from the bottom,” says founder Ete Davies. “Representation inspires and encourages people from different backgrounds to believe in, and pursue, opportunities for themselves in our industry. Better representation in diversity, across different sectors, areas and roles (especially senior level) would help towards encouraging others to seek careers in our industry. If we use the same traditional methods and look in the same places for new talent, then the industry will never change.”

Pitch It

Social enterprise Pitch It supports young people from lower socio-economic settings, helping them into careers in the creative industry with one-to-one mentoring. Industry professionals are matched with 16-19 year olds, to take part in a course of training and mentoring. So far, partners have included Iris, M&C Saatchi, Propercorn and Rapha.

“Creative businesses play their part in the problem. The industry recruits through networks – one job leads to another. And because networks are so important, reliance on skills like confidence and self awareness mean an inherent bias towards those familiar with the social context," says founder Isabel Farchy. “So we're trying to equip young people with the tools to make their own inroads into the creative world of work.”
Pitch It

The GirlHood

This initiative finds and supports women aged 11-24 with creative potential, with the aim of helping a “richer mix” of women into the creative industry. Using courses and content, The Girlhood helps them prepare for jobs and broaden access to careers. Its first major pilot, with FCB Inferno, saw nine young women embark on a five-week traineeship.

“We launched The GirlHood out of frustration that creativity in adland seems largely the preserve of the middle class, and it isn't a place where you can easily enter without the right credentials,” says founder, and former D&AD New Blood Programme Manager, Kati Russell. “We want to propel a group of talented girls from diverse backgrounds into creative careers.”
​​The GirlHood


Creative agency No Chiefs' Bonded initiative was set up to offer mentorship and guidance to women, helping them navigate their career development and develop their voices as up-and-coming creatives.

“Maverick creatives find themselves on the back foot because they do not follow a traditional career path,” says No Chiefs co-founder Marium Raja. “Bonded gives young women from diverse backgrounds practical tools through mentorship, events and workshops. Many young creatives in the creative industry are managed not mentored throughout their career. Unpaid internships and low-level entry jobs to boost diversity figures at the bottom-line will not solve the disparity at the top. Creativity at the heart of any company culture should be based on inviting divergent talent from diverse backgrounds to produce innovative ideas.”

Commercial Break

Commercial Break has a five-year track record of getting creatively-minded 18-24 year old Londoners, from lower income families, careers in the industry. Every September it sets up a pop-up agency for three months, which works for a massive brand on a real world brief. In the past it's made work for brands like Ubisoft, Comic Relief, and EE, and even created a new award for the MOBOs (see photo). After that three-month stint, Breakers move onto three months with partner agencies such as Saatchi London, Ketchum and Lucky Generals.

“The ad industry is staffed by the same sort of people wherever you go. It’s also running out of genuinely new, interesting ideas. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out one’s related to the other,” says co-founder and CEO, James Hillhouse. “This isn’t about quotas and doing the right thing, it’s about giving fresh talent the chance to turn the industry on its head.”

The Pipe

Ogilvy's six-month internship programme, The Pipe is a chance to learn while earning the London Living Wage. It's open to all, with no requirement for experience in the ad industry, specific education, and no age limit. Interns are 'buddied' with a creative who'll act as a mentor, and the scheme offers six months of real work that'll enable participants to leave with a critiqued portfolio of work. 

“We want the ones who wouldn't normally apply for this sort of thing," says Emma de La Fosse, Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather Group UK. "The ones who can't afford the time off work or rely on mum and dad to help them out.”
​​The Pipe

For more advice, read our crash course on unconscious bias from Dentsu Aegis CEO Tracy de Groose and Creative Equals founder Ali Hanan, and how creatives can take positive actions to change it.