This morning I read this tweet and I want to talk about it.
OK it’s here: I’ve crunched BBC’s stats: There’s effectively no increase in BAME diversity for program makers (there’s progress in non-program making areas) & disability diversity is going backwards. I’m also introducing a new concept #DiversityGaslighting https://t.co/NbVdR9kox7 pic.twitter.com/vfXoQgJTSK
— Marcus Ryder (@marcusryder) July 3, 2019
First, BAME is a term used in the UK in diversity discussions and means Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. After conducting the comparative review of diversity and inclusion programs in screen-based media (to be released in 2020) for the the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, I have become a fan of the UK broadcasting system and its work in diversity and inclusion from the BBC to BFI to Ofcom to ScreenSkills to the broadcasters Creative Diversity Network. They feel a generation ahead of the Canadian media sector in terms of measuring diversity and creating programs to improve diversity and inclusion. I think we can learn a lot from what they are doing. And their missteps.
This tweet and the blog post that it links to suggests a misstep. In an attempt to sell a good news story (and I can understand why the BBC would want to do that) they appear to have undermined the good work that they have done by not identifying where their stats have not improved or in fact fallen. Their reporting of underrepresented groups has worsened the feeling of inclusion for the members of those groups, leading the writer to coin the very unfortunate phrase #DiversityGaslighting.
This is a cautionary tale for the Canadian media sector. We are just making our first steps towards better data collection (without which we cannot create programs or measure progress so it is the first necessary step). It would be great if the sector could work together to have consistent definitions and talk the same language. But in the meantime, as organizations report on diversity it is incredibly important that they avoid spin to try to make the situation look better. If it sucks – own it and tell people how you plan to improve it. I believe that if you do that you will engage members of underrepresented groups and encourage them to work with you and not try to bypass you.