I’ve decided to save you the agony of wading through a tedious list of books, films and obscure references I’ve spent far too long ruminating on, in an effort to convey just how smart and curious I am. Trust me, I’m enviably in touch with the youth culture and am proper quirky to boot, honest.
Instead, I’m going to put these 600 words to better use by embarrassing someone other than myself. My benchmark is this - whose industry shoes would I step into, if some higher power gave me the chance to start over, with a directive of making a purposeful difference?
Those shoes would belong to Isabel Farchy. Isabel started her career as a teacher in a West London Academy, where she taught English and Media. She saw that her students were creatively talented, plugged into all kinds of sub-cultures and were natural born problem solvers. She also noticed that it was almost laughable for any of these kids to consider our world as a possible career route. Even getting work experience was impossible.
Then a friend mentioned their little brother was interning for a famous film director and the penny dropped – unlike their middle-class counter parts, her students didn’t have the networks to flex, no friends of parents to get them a foot in the door. So, they simply missed out.
Rather than just rant about the unfairness of privilege in the staff room, Isabel decided to do something about it. She quit her job and started the Creative Mentor Network – an initiative that pairs A level students from London schools with top creative businesses, ensuring an emphasis on diversity. Her aim was to help participants get exposure to the wealth of ‘invisible jobs’ in our industry and build a network they could lean on down the track for that shoe in.
Three years ago, I embarked on this initiative myself. To say it was an eye opener is an understatement. Before they let you lose on an actual young person, you spend 6 weeks in a formalised training programme, learning about the realities of bias in the workplace and what privilege looks like (clue, it’s generally white with a Tory leaning).
Very politely, Isabel makes you take a long hard look at the business you operate, as you count the graduates who have found their way into your agency because ‘someone knew someone’.
She bluntly points out that our creative industries are far from representative of the actual population. Which given we’re a sector geared entirely around engaging with the public, is acutely embarrassing.
She patiently explains that a lack of diversity means you’re missing out on an insane amount of talent. And lastly, because she knows all the buttons to push, Isabel slam dunks in the statistic that we’re 70 per cent more likely to win new business if we have a diverse workforce.
Once I’d been woken up to a lot of the industry’s failings and a fair few of my own, I was paired up with my mentee. I won’t put her in the spotlight beyond saying that, seeing her go from ‘shruggy’ and dismissive about even doing A levels, to getting into Bath Uni to study Media & Communications last September, was about as close to ‘parentally proud’ as I’m ever likely to get.
Over the last 5 years there have been hundreds of students going through the programme, thanks to all the creative businesses that have signed up. But Isabel’s ambition continues to fire on all cylinders - she wants even more partners onboard, she’s dying to launch in other UK cities starting with Manchester and most of all, she wants to see these students land in roles that previously would have been out of their reach. So please click through, add Isabel Farchy on LinkedIn and add this genuine inspiration to your professional network. Thank you.