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LONDON, United Kingdom — In a BoF Live event, broadcast before the death of George Floyd sparked global protests against racial inequality, June Sarpong — the BBC’s director of creative diversity appointed in 2019 — spoke with BoF’s Robin Mellery-Pratt on how organisations can improve their diversity and inclusive representation — an issue prevalent in fashion, from its tokenistic treatment of ethnic minority employees to the White-dominated boardrooms and C-suites.
“There’s a real hierarchy in fashion. It is based on exclusivity, on luxury, and the opposite of what we’re saying we now need or want society to be. The DNA of the industry has to change. The gatekeepers need to start thinking differently,” said Sarpong, who was awarded an OBE for her services to broadcasting in 2020
Sarpong’s career in media began with radio and television before she authored “Diversify” and “The Power of Women” — two books that laid the foundations of her consultative work on diversity and inclusion. “I understand discrimination first-hand. I was always passionate about how you level the playing field and make sure everyone can contribute regardless of their background.” Yesterday she announced publishing agreements for two new books, “Power of Privilege” and her memoir “Only One in the Room.”
Tune in to the latest edition of the BoF podcast, where Sarpong shares her expertise on how and where creative industries and their organisations can improve representation and allyship, including:
- Admit when you do not have experience and listen to those who do. Be an effective ally by bringing in somebody who can speak to that experience, give them the opportunity to speak and a seat at the table. “Make sure your team all go on an allyship training programme. We then understand the role we have to play.”
- Reconsider where your organisation places diversity and inclusion. Rather than addressing it as an offset of CSR, Sarpong argues it should sit in your R&D department, “which is about the future of an organisation. If you’ve got that lens on, there’s no way you will hire tokenistically because you truly understand.”
- Hire diverse talent across levels of seniority and ensure all identities in the business feel they have representatives at the table. “Optics matter,” said Sarpong. “You need the examples of leadership so that the majority group have their minds changed about what a leader actually looks like.”