Lethargic Leaders. No thanks
At a recent APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on inclusion and diversity in fashion chaired by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, and hosted by Tamara Cincik's Fashion Roundtable, there was vital insight from people within the industry on what it's like to be marginalised.
Sure we all have our own experiences but the more we conform to dominant culture, the less obstructive or frequent that marginalisation is. Examples ranged from micro- aggressions to fear of assault. No surprise that queer, race and body difference issues were particularly highlighted. This think tank conversation is one I have attended many times. And much of the content and context of this persistent human pathology, has featured in my presentations as visiting professor for Kingston School of Art.
The stories my be different but over and over, bias and stereotype presents itself not just in our work place or social lives, but in our own minds.
Some felt their business was not being taken seriously by banks or sponsors, despite the excellent financial condition they were in and high profile press coverage they had received. Others in different fields observed only novelty interest in better representation in fashion, or a tick box mentality which amounted to little more than tokenism.
Co-founding All Walks Beyond the Catwalk in 2009 our strap line was always: Diversity in front of and behind the lens. Why? Because it's the hierarchies that facilitate or block change. We all want the human spectrum to be seen in our media but for that to happen media bosses need to be woke or diverse.
Of course education is needed to challenge this. And business incentives are needed. These can be supplied by study findings - see why reflect reality? and we also need stats. The purple pound for instance (disability or body difference) is valued at 249b dollars.
But how do we tackle the lethargy of leaders with a sense of entitlement to maintain their own white, middle class, cis, het, able-bodied centricity? As I wrote recently using the Be a Lady film as an example, even those of us fully focussed on inclusivity, channel our normal (to my disappointment) when our brains are not in hyper-vigilant mode.
Diverse leaders are key. As Edward Enniful shows, when leadership changes, everything else shifts. As the Annual Top 100 published by Drapers each year illustrates however, we are still an age away from this. Those at the top are still very male and very white - you knew this of course. But until these ranks are successfully infiltrated, or consumers force a change through their own priorities and spending - that's you and me....change is going to be slow.