Black History Month: supporting and sustaining diversity at work

Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu · 14 October 2021

October is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of Black Britons and celebrate Black heritage and culture across the UK. This year’s theme is ‘Proud to be’, inspired by the 2020 Black Lives Matter events, encouraging people to share their pride of their heritage through individual stories. At Bectu, we will be celebrating achievements, reflecting on what progress has been made and the work that we can do to increase diversity in the workplace.

Progress within Bectu

Becu has long strived to improve diversity in the cultural industries, campaigning for years for Ofcom to require broadcasters to report workforce diversity. We have worked to strengthen our internal networks, launching the Black Bectu Network last June. The Network is a place where members can share experiences, gain access to information and resources and build relationships. It is also a forum to share ideas with Bectu’s Black Members Committee about how we can further our efforts to increase diversity in the sector. Join the network and work together to create positive change for black people in the creative industries.

Last year, we published the Race to be Heard report, researched and written by Marcus Ryder calling on broadcasters, industry stakeholders and entertainment unions to form a new independent reporting body to tackle racism in the broadcasting industry. While the report was welcomed by the industry, we are yet to see a body take shape so will be redoubling our efforts in the coming months to make this a reality.

We know that informal recruitment practises often reinforce existing inequalities and present barriers to progression for black members. During the lockdown, our Black Members Committee adapted the Move on Up initiative to Zoom on Up, resulting in 180 one-to-ones between BAME members and engagers and executives to establish connections and job opportunities, many resulting in employment

Progress in the industry

The industry data that is available illustrates how much more there still is to do. Project Diamond data from January 2021 provides evidence that broadcasters are failing to reach diversity targets with off-screen representation in particular remaining poor. Project Diamond’s consistent resistance to producing programme level data means that we are only seeing half the picture. Bectu will continue campaigning for programme level data which would give a much clearer insight into good practice and success.

Ofcom’s September 2021 review of Diversity and Equal Opportunities in the UK broadcasting sector painted a slightly more positive picture, with participants reporting a dramatic change in the number and nature of important conversations about representation and experiences of ethnic minorities. Since 2017/18, both TV and radio have increased the proportion of joiners from minority ethnic groups. A key focus now however must be increasing representation and retention in senior management roles, an area where the lack of diversity remains significant.

Black History Month events

To celebrate Black History Month, we will be hosting a webinar alongside our parent union Prospect, to explore how unions can support and sustain increasingly diverse workplaces. Activists and reps from across the unions will speak about their experiences and discuss potential initiatives to improve representation in the workplace.

Prospect will also be hosting a webinar with Show Racism the Red Card on tackling racism in football.

Check out the Black History Month events throughout October in your local area here.

While Black History Month is an important, dedicated time to celebrate Black history and examine the ways in which we can support and sustain diverse talent, celebrating Black culture and heritage should be part of our everyday lives. Bectu will continue working with industry partners to tackle the systemic issue of diversity inequality in our industries throughout the year until we see real and lasting change.