What employers need to know about diversity for 2023

Posted on January 13, 2023

Creative Access development director, Elonka Soros, reflects on our work over the past year and what key diversity and inclusion concepts employers need to know for going into 2023…

As I start the year prepping new projects for 2023, I’ve been reflecting on a busy 2022 Creative Access year of activity.

It’s been a pleasure to meet so many engaged creative industry colleagues over all the training sessions I led last year. In those sessions, I have noticed a shift in levels of understanding about matters of race, sex (and gender identities) social class and disability. That’s not so surprising because these discussions have been at the fore of political and world events, but what is interesting is that perhaps because of the often-polarising nature of the narratives, in many cases, I’ve also noted an increasing sense of urgency to take actions to confront and eliminate exclusions often aligned with these identity characteristics.

Regardless of sector, company size or the level of seniority of those participating in our Creative Access workshops, the key themes emerging out of these discussions have been very similar.

I’ve collated the top five matters that were exercising the minds of creative colleagues in 2022 – I wonder, how do these match your experience and what are you prioritising for 2023?

Black and white image of one of our trainers, Elonka, delivering a session to a room of employees at a workplace.
1. The concept of belonging in addition to those of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

It’s been refreshing to be part of DE&I conversations that acknowledge that just because someone is included in the team it does not mean that they feel that they belong. Creating equitable and inclusive workplaces with belonging cultures requires action that goes beyond the diversity numbers and the inclusion policies. It takes each one of us to understand the individual roles that we play to create company cultures that are welcoming, respectful, where people feel valued and can thrive. When people thrive, businesses thrive too.

We’ve been working with a global publishing company on their Equity and Belonging programme for line managers. They’ve built strong ERGs (employee resource groups). These safe spaces, celebrating difference have provided a forum for individuals to engage in meaningful dialogue with colleagues. When people feel they belong they are more likely to speak up, be creative and to innovate.

2. Understanding of intersectionality

This year Creative Access research has fuelled some insightful discussion with and within our wider creative industries community. Data from our 2022 Thrive Report showed that disabled people who also identify as Black, Asian or from other ethnically diverse backgrounds, are feeling less confident about their careers and progression in the creative sector than any other group. The more ways that a person is minoritised in their workplace – the greater the levels of concern. These more nuanced conversations about disability, race, accent, and social class have brought greater awareness and understanding of the ‘emotional tax’ of people who are minoritised in multiple ways at work. Hence the focus as above, on creating belonging cultures where people don’t have to mask their identity, or “pass” to survive. 

3. Increased focus on career access for disabled people across all levels and racially minoritised people at mid – senior level

While Creative Access’s industry leading positive action apprenticeships and internships programmes have delivered increased racial, socio-economic, and disabled representation at entry level across the sector, our research and community feedback show it’s still far from a level playing field and there is a lot of work to be done. In all areas of the creative sector, disabled people are seriously underrepresented. Steps to address systemic structural barriers are needed throughout the career cycle and you can read more about these and see the data from our Creative Access Disability Survey 2022 here.

4. Mental health, wellbeing and allyship in a post pandemic world

While the Covid19 pandemic is not over yet the forecast is not so bleak as it was back in 2020 when the UK went into lockdown. The toll on our individual and collective national mental health as we adjusted to a new reality is well documented, as is how many workplaces responded by putting in place measures to support employee wellbeing. Creative Access’ team of clinical psychologists, beamed into our homes via zoom and provided our team with tools to support ourselves, our families, and wider communities during the crisis, and many of our employer partners have been accessing these resources too.

Before the pandemic in many people spoke to me about their fears of sharing their mental health status at work, but the psychologists’ sessions have provided a space for people to share and learn that mental health is not static and that we are all always somewhere on a scale. More open conversation about feelings and the impact of day to day working life on our wellbeing has also resulted in a motivation for people to be alert to behaviours and language that could negatively impact their mental health and those of their colleagues. As we get back into more normal routines, the next steps will be to maintain the good practices we have acquired and build them into our new ways of working. 

5. The importance of data

The 2022 Creative Access Thrive research threw up an interesting aspect that may account for the slower progress towards DE&I aspirations than many creative companies would have hoped – they have no data upon which to build the actions required for change. Increasingly there is a realisation that measuring the diversity numbers is not enough, we also need data on our inclusion impact, and even fewer companies are doing that.

Earlier in this reflection I shared some of the discussion on the concept of belonging and the importance of understanding how now only how colleagues are accessing roles in our teams but also how they are experiencing working with us. It’s not always easy for people to speak up about matters that are concerning them or even articulate some of the impacts of workplace culture on mental health and wellbeing or productivity and ability to innovate. Even giving positive feedback about the things that we love about the places we work and the people we work with can get overlooked as we move form project to project, across time zones and in hybrid spaces. But we do need the information if we are to make the best use of our time and resources.

I think I may have said this before but it’s true, so I’ll say it again… when people thrive, businesses thrive too (and there is a big body of research to back that up).

If you’re interested in discussing what’s at the top of your DE&I agenda for 2023 or finding out more about how we support and partner with organisations, please contact us here.

I look forward to hearing from you.