ScreenSkills conference discusses ways to improve industries’ diversity

Image: Conference panel with Iyare Igiehon (BFI), Harjeet Chhokar (Channel 4), Charanprite Dhami (runner), Jude Spencer (mental health trainer) and Bryony Arnold (producer) © ScreenSkills

Nearly 90 people attended the second ScreenSkills diversity conference – Action, not words – held in Leeds on 11 March.

Although one speaker had to turn back to self-isolate en route and some attendees were unable to attend because of Covid-19, the conference offered a half-day of practical workshops and panel discussions designed to offer advice and tips on helping build a more inclusive workforce.

Attendees heard ScreenSkills Head of Policy Mark Heholt open the event with a few staggering statistics to illustrate the diversity and inclusivity challenges the industry faces. “Only 13% of broadcaster employees are from BAME backgrounds, frankly that’s a bit embarrassing,” he said. “There is a 14% pay gap between the average pay between men and women, equally embarrassing. And something which I think really strikes a chord with me, and maybe with the rest of you, is that that 60% of TV workers are from better-off backgrounds.”

His introduction was followed by Building a diverse workforce, a panel discussion on topics including changes to the production landscape in the north, Channel 4’s move to Leeds and recruiting locally. Chaired by Lisa Holdsworth (RTS) the session featured Babita Bahal (Channel 4), Carol McKenzie (True North), Sanjiv Buttoo (BBC) and Jane Hudson (executive producer).

ScreenSkills executives Kaye Elliott (high-end TV) and Gareth Ellis-Unwin (film and animation) then gave an overview of some of the diversity initiatives ScreenSkills supports in television and film, including Trainee Finder, Make a Move for film, HETV and children’s TV and First Break.

Following a short break delegates attended two of four breakout sessions:

  • Unconscious bias - Femi Otitoju (Challenge Consultancy) and Orestes Kouzof (BIFA) introduced attendees to the concept unconscious bias and what can be done to tackle it.
  • Leadership and management - in this session, based on the high-end TV leadership essential training, freelance line producer Addie Orfila talked about managing diverse teams and dealing with bullying and harassment on the work floor
  • Breaking the barriers - professionals from protected characteristic groups shared how they achieved success in their careers in this panel. The session was chaired by Iyare Igiehon (BFI) and featured Bryony Arnold (producer), Charanprite Dhami (runner), Harjeet Chhokar (Channel 4) and Jude Spencer (mental health trainer).
  • How to monitor diversity and meet diversity standards – a panel full of practical tips on how productions can meet diversity targets, with a case study discussing how the producers of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie achieved this. The session was chaired by Fiona Thompson (RTS) and featured Babita Bahal (Channel 4), Cat Marshall (producer), Julia Brown (BFI) and Miranda Wayland (BBC).

Films of some of the sessions will be available on the website soon.

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