The conversation around diversity in media and broadcasting was a key focus among many of IBC2022’s speakers and panellists and was particularly emphasised in Day Three’s session with ‘Soho Media Club: In conversation with John Olivieira - moving the diversity and inclusion needle’.
The discussion was part of IBC2022’s Changemaker programme, which looked at the more human side of the media business and explored topics of inclusion, equity and sustainability for the future of the industry.
Soho Media Club, a network of active media professionals, was created to cultivate an inclusive community. Founded by Jaisica Lapsiwala and Tomasz Witkowski, both realised that there was change that needed to happen in the industry in terms of the overall culture and the need to embrace different minorities, genders and people with disabilities. They started with free monthly meetups in Soho, London to get industry people together, with members spanning across the industry from content creation to production distribution - instead of from just one skilled area. The concept was to make change in the industry in a practical and positive way and support those wanting to make that change.
Soho Media Club doesn’t just focus on one aspect of media - “It’s not just about women in media or BAME in media because everyone’s a complex human being,” Lapsiwala explains. The idea behind the Club is to get everyone together to talk about their challenges and observations, she emphasises, “Not just about diversity, but also from a talent perspective: How do you access new talent? Are we nurturing them? What are the differences in the generations? What are the communication challenges? It is about diversity and inclusion, but it’s more holistic than that, it’s more about how can we improve the culture…”
Speaker John Olivieira told the audience about his learnings within the industry over his 20 years of experience: “For me, an inclusive workforce is a space where everybody can be themselves.”
He added that to achieve this, the culture of the industry as a whole needs to evolve: “It’s about culture change. It’s really a radical change because there is no solution - we can’t go out tomorrow and change the world.”
Olivieira encourages everyone to make the first step and have the conversation; “Then you notice that at least that you have different conversations from different angles and different perspectives. I think that helps.” He explained that opening these conversations has an impact on the working environment of the future and can help to get everybody on the same page.
“For me, it’s about having that honest conversation with the people within the organisation, it’s about being endorsed by the top.”
Designing the future
The importance of asking the right questions and diversifying now was also emphasised by Nonny de la Peña in the Show Keynote at the IBC Conference. De la Peña noted that the lack of diversity now in algorithm artwork design will affect the diversity of tech in the future: “The AR characters are going to respond to the individual experience of the story right? How are we going to make sure that we can have a really full experience? I noticed that these AI characters in the AI art experience - basically anything you put in [the search] - happy child, happy person, Turkish anime, pretty woman, etc - [the results were] all white. So this really requires us to stay on top of this [question of algorithm design diversity].”
Throughout the show, the questions were raised about how tech can be more inclusive, to ensure that the people building the tech are more diverse, as Lapsiwala explained: “The more diversity in the input, the more diversity [in the] output. So if you get more diverse, you have more diversity of thought building the tech then you’re going to cater for and represent the society.”
“At Soho Media Club we’re looking at what the landscape looks like in terms of diversity, inclusion, equity representation, we wanted to put meaning behind the buzzwords”, she concluded.
Diversifying a whole industry was widely recognised among speakers as imperative yet representing a considerable change, which makes it even more important, yet challenging for every business. In another Changemakers session, Women in immersive tech: State of the immersive technology sector in UK & Europe in 2022, Alexandra Hussenot, CEO & Founder of IMMERSIONN reinforced this idea: “Each pivot is huge and the next is bigger.”
Lapsiwala advised anyone wanting to open the conversation in their workplace: “Just have a really honest conversation. Leave your ego at the door, say ‘this is not working at the moment. Can we change it together? What can we do? What action can we take?’ Challenge people in a positive way.”
John Olivieira paralleled this point: “Even if it makes you uncomfortable, start asking questions. You need revolution for evolution.” Olivieira, Publisher at OneWorld called for changes in the industry to make it more inclusive and accessible by increasing representation.