Why is There a Lack of Black Representation in Creative Fields?
By MaKenzie Hall
Lack of Representation
No matter what niche of the creative field you fall into, it’s a cutthroat process trying to be recognized and hirable based on your work. This task becomes twice as hard navigating as a black creative who more often than not is disadvantaged with accessibility and actual diversity celebrating companies. Many black people are drawn to creative fields as an outlet for expression when needed most. Creativity is an open door that does not require connections, education, and in a perfect world is solely focused on one’s talent and communication. However, much like it’s STEM field counterparts, the creative industry rarely holds true to its word on being inclusive, ground-breaking, and accepting. Although there is a plethora of talented black creatives in every corner of the globe, statistically there is a disappointing amount of underrepresentation in actual jobs. Why is that? Roughly 11.4% of creative jobs are held by all ethnic minorities combined. It’s not from a lack of options and it’s not from a lack of applying or searching. In fact, that’s quite the opposite of the situation.
Hiring Bias // Othering
Hiring bias is an obstacle that minority job applicants know all too well. Despite having access to several job opportunities, subconscious biases often get Black and other ethnic minorities thrown from the interviewing pool. Some of the ways this happens is through names, pictures, and sometimes even education while employers are looking over resumes. Several studies have shown resumes having ethnic sounding names and attending certain schools, like HBCUs are roughly 50% less likely to continue on in the hiring process even if they have the same or better qualifications than their White counterparts.
For those who do make it past the interview, Black creatives are more likely to be assigned specifically to urban and diversity-focused projects, as opposed to more corporate or traditional projects. While parts of this is probably from a place of understanding the target audience more it also again falls into employers subconscious bias and expectations toward Black creatives.
The other difficulty facing Black representation in creative spaces is accessibility. No matter what concentration is being focused on they all cost a generous amount of money to get involved in; whether you have to buy camera equipment, a laptop, painting supplies, etc. It adds up and with the creative field being seen as a “hobby” career path it is often hard to find the support to help Black creatives get started. Not to mention, it is often deemed an expectation to get an internship when beginning creative careers, which many teachers, mentors, and parents fail to realize is a luxury. In the creative industry, more often than not, the internships are unpaid and require large commitments, something unfeasible to many Black creatives paying their and others’ way through school or life.
Why This Matters
Yes, this is about inclusion and it will always be a hot topic for HR but it also is generally just beneficial to companies as a whole. Companies who have greater workplace diversity are more profitable and outperform their competitors. It should be a major goal for anyone.
Cultural Influence / Point-of-View
Having a diverse team allows for fresh new perspectives and ideas to be brought forth through diverse skills and experiences. This same reasoning allows for faster problem solving and decision making. Especially when studies show that Black people have a lot of influence on what is currently considered trendy and worth consuming. In other words, it increases company innovativity. Black creatives can help bring in new audiences by knowing how to meaningfully appeal to them and make the companies sought after beyond posting a black square on Instagram with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
It is clearly shown that in places where employees feel included and celebrated they often are more engaged and productive with their work as 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers. This leads to a higher retention rate, a better selection of hiring candidates, and an overall better reputation. Celebrated diversity is a win-win for all involved and every company should work to not focus on token diversity or having no diversity for the sake of their employees, but also for the company’s performance, as well. This can be done through starting the conversation, educating all levels of the company, and truly believing diversity is an important and highlightable aspect of the company.