How can creative industries work to improve diversity and inclusion?

October 12, 2021

Research highlights class imbalances across the creative sector.

A report from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) has shown that social mobility is “a greater issue for the creative industries than across the wider economy” as people from privileged backgrounds are twice as likely to work in creative jobs as those from the working classes. 

It is hard to understand the exact cause of this disparity. However, some attribute it to working class applicants being less likely to have the right networks or cultural references, unpaid or unadvertised jobs ‘narrowing routes to entry’, the freelance nature of many creative roles and addtional costs to jobs, for example, materials, studios and equipment .

These statistics add to the growing concern that marginalised groups will continue to be pushed out of the sector as the industry struggles to mitigate the impact of Brexit and the pandemic. 

It is important that we have a cultural sector that reflects the population, when the industry does not work to remove barriers, its creative outputs will in turn be held back.

“Works that explore, challenge and reflect contemporary society are naturally richer if they are informed by a wider range of social perspective and experiences.” Bridge Group Chief Executive Nik Miller.

As a sector it is key that we work to address inclusivity through a number of areas, and many are looking at how we can address this.

Arts Professional have created a toolkit that ‘offers practical advice on how to achieve sustainable institutional change, based on research involving 110 arts organisations’ focusing on the responsibility of employers.

We work with studio providers looking to improve diversity and inclusivity for tenants, this focusing on culture, accessibility and opportunities. In addition to their tenants providers often also look to build community outreach extending opportunities and experiences to individuals of all backgrounds and ages. 

A previous case study we created with David Hevey, of Shape Arts a disability-led arts organisation whose goal is to improve access to culture for disabled people. ‘People with disabilities are 20 to 30% less likely to land a creative role than their non-disabled peers’. David explains how they are working open the arts to wider inclusion, through training and participatory arts and development programmes, but how that has become increasingly difficult during and since the lockdown.

‘I have learned that one has to fight to get in – but that great culture can be made from such margins’ – David Hevey

‘Based on the Livelihood of Artists data report published in 2016, the average annual earnings of visual artists reach just above £16k, of which only £6,020 comes from their art practice.’

Despite efforts there has been little shift in working classes finding creative work, with growth of just  1.4% in five years. While employers and providers are making effort this is a systemic issue that must be addressed by the sector as a whole.

A recent article by Sara Karpanen highlighted the need to value artist and their work in order to allow creatives from all backgrounds to thrive. ’It is impossible to celebrate London as a leading cultural capital without noting its highly unequal treatment of its very core contributors—the creative practitioners themselves.’

‘Based on the Livelihood of Artists data report published in 2016, the average annual earnings of visual artists reach just above £16k, of which only £6,020 comes from their art practice.’

Those already at a disadvantage or lacking support and security cannot survive in an industry not acknowledged as real work, with less defined career routes, often with limited job security.

Many are questioning how we can make systemic changes to ensure these disparities within the sector don’t grow. Whilst there is no roadmap to a more diverse and creative sector, it is understood that it is needed to ensure a thriving sector that challenges norms, tests boundaries, makes us think differently or see things from another point of view, enriching our culture and our lives.