Black Lives Matter and representation in the media

It’s a huge privilege to present a weekly radio show on Sheffield Live, a fantastic community radio station with a vast array of diverse voices and music.

Like all presenters on the channel, I’m a volunteer. For some it’s a stepping stone – Sheffield Live has a fantastic track record of helping people gain experience in the media industry. Numerous volunteers have gone on to employment at the BBC or commercial radio stations thanks to experience and training at Sheffield Live. For many other presenters, including me, it’s something we do alongside other work or activities, a place where we get to play music we love or discuss things important to us.

I love the station’s work and it is a privilege to present a show because each week I have the opportunity to pick the brains of fascinating people, running businesses and social enterprises. (301 episodes now, and counting!)

But talking of privilege. I’m a white male. Furthermore, I was brought up with love and security which is sadly lacking for so many children. Given a fantastic education. And huge amounts of support. I understand I have numerous advantages and privileges others don’t.

It can be easy to sail through life believing that success (however you personally define it) is solely down to hard work. Especially for those of us who have not faced discrimination in work and life.

But far too many people are still denied the equality of opportunity which some of us take for granted, because of their ethnicity, the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, their age, a disability, their beliefs, and for other reasons.

That’s clear from listening, talking, reading. I haven’t felt the pain of discrimination and prejudice and don’t claim to understand how it feels to be oppressed. But I’ve been horrified by experiences friends have told me about, and horrified by things I’ve read and heard.

Black Lives Matter. There should be no room for racism in our society.

Sadly “Black Lives Matter” seems challenging to some. It doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter. Nobody is calling for special treatment. Just (just!) ending discrimination and injustice.

This carries through society including within entrepreneurship and the workplace.

And the media has an enormous role to play. Not only in terms of how it reports what’s going on, but also in terms of who it invites to write opinion pieces and editorials in newspapers, and who is interviewed on television and the radio. Which means I have a responsibility. I must play my part.

“You can’t be what you don’t see,” as a guest on my show said a couple of years ago. She talked about how when growing up she kept seeing careers guidance around STEM subjects (science, technology, education and maths) featuring pictures of white men. It was easy to believe those roles and careers weren’t “for people like her.”

The media which covers enterprise and social enterprise – including my radio programme – has a responsibility and a role to play.

The business leaders and social entrepreneurs who have appeared on my show are diverse. The show is inclusive. But it’s still too easy to end up only recruiting guests who shout the loudest, or who are most confident in putting themselves forward to be on air.

So to be clear: I welcome applications to be on the show from everyone. Please get in touch if you’re doing something you believe our listeners would be interested in. Please get in touch if you want a chat about being on the programme. You will be welcomed.

This week I’ve also been re-reading some research into unconscious bias, and how to eradicate it. Many businesses and organisations have done fascinating work on this. Worth a look (though I’m not telling anyone what to do. Am well aware that many people, businesses, social enterprises and organisations have been working to eradicate discrimination and bias for years).

Incidentally – and it shouldn’t take the ‘business case’ argument to convince us to do the right thing – companies in the top quartile for executive-level ethnic diversity financially outperform their rivals in the bottom quartile by 36%, according to McKinsey and Company’s analysis of over 1000 global firms. I’ve covered this on the radio show before.

The power of books can create a better world too, by increasing understanding and respect through reading. Kids growing up can’t be what they don’t see. There’s currently a crowdfunding campaign for inclusive independent publishers. Representation matters. Black Lives Matter.

Love and best wishes,