11th November 2019
ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar asked what the TV industry is doing to support diverse talent as she became the first woman of colour to be awarded a Royal Television Society fellowship.
Speaking as the honour was presented at a dinner in London, she said: “The fellowship brings together two parts of my TV life – when I worked in TV as a programme-maker and obviously the work I now do for ScreenSkills for TV and broader screen industry.
“I understand from RTS that I’m the first Asian or black woman to get this fellowship so it does feel a moment of reflection for me. When I started out, years ago, I was told I would never get a job in TV. The odds did feel stacked – I was an immigrant, I had a baby and that was not an advantage. And there weren’t many role models. Looking back if I’d not been so bitten by the TV bug I would have given up.”
She said every programme-maker or executive knows they are only as good as their last programme or big decision. But she added: “When your face doesn’t quite fit, your journey can feel hard to navigate… I took what are called ‘glass-cliff roles’ – where the chance of failure is high. I guess it was my way of proving my value.
“I do hope things are better today because it can feel cold being an outsider. I think there is more all of us can do to offer a seat at the table to everyone of talent – whatever their colour and whatever their background because social inclusion is a massive challenge too.
“And this isn’t just about entry level roles because I know there is quite a lot of focus there. But it’s about making sure that there’s a diversity of talent in positions of influence and middle and senior leadership. We have to ask and keep asking are we looking beyond the familiar and the comfortable?”
Role models matter, she said. “Quite surprisingly a couple of weeks ago someone – a well-known TV and radio journalist – came to me and said, ‘I remember seeing your name in the credits and thinking this, and by that she meant a career in TV – is possible.’ So we give each other hope.”
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