LGBTQ+ inclusivity in content-making teams – are you doing enough?

Mon 30 May 2022 | Opinion, TP Talks To | 0 comments

1st June 2023

Happy Pride month one and all! We know that it’s not enough to simply change your company logo for a day/week/month, or churn out some supportive sentence we saw on a meme #virtuesignalling. But I hope that by now you know that TP means business on the inclusivity front 365 days a year – whilst also accepting that we can all, always, do more.

But whilst Pride is here to celebrate, we’re going to celebrate it in all its joyful, rainbow, positive human glory! How better to do that than ask some of our team, clients and candidates to be a guest on our blog.

We asked them to share their workplace experiences as part of the LGBTQ+ community on set/location/production office in the hope that those who aren’t doing enough can read it and buck their ideas up. Talented People produced a Facebook Live session on this very topic that you can watch again.

Jason Mitchell, Creative Director of The Connected Set shares his hopes for Pride 2023 and Beyond.

This Pride Month I want to CELEBRATE the power of TV in promoting the visibility and stories of LGBTQ+ people. Our industry doesn’t get it right all the time, ‘Gender Wars’ being one recent example, but MY GOSH: more often than not we smash it out the park!

What a PRIVILEGE it is to play a small part in representing our LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters and non-binary folk on screen. I feel SO LUCKY to work in a medium that can change hearts and minds enmasse, that can promote more than just tolerance but unconditional acceptance and love.

Whether you are LGBTQ+ or not, this Pride month I would like to THANK all those people working in TV who make thoughtful editorial choices to cast LGBTQ+ people and tell our stories, who steer away from stereotypes, who look for depth over shallow cliches, who celebrate the rich diversity of our community. YOU should feel super proud and excited that your choices can improve audience’s lives: from kids watching same sex couples on Strictly’ and realising that’s not only ‘ok’ but positively great, to the camp silliness of ‘Drag Race’ which makes us fall in love with amazing complex characters while revealing important stories of overcoming adversity. There’s still a way to go, but Im PROUD of the people in our industry who are part of this change.

Amy Ruffell is a freelance senior development and edit producer, and shares her opinion on the danger of assumptions and how simple language tweaks can make the world of difference.

We work in an inclusive industry – for the most part… TV is generally (but not always) based in forward-thinking metropolitan areas; Manchester, Brighton, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, London etc where attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ people are generally positive. I believe that in most professional TV environments there would be uproar – or at the very least pushback – if discriminatory behaviour was witnessed. Make no bones about it, this is a Very Good Thing. It is real progress, but now we need to take the next step together. We shouldn’t rest on our laurels when it comes to inclusivity.

One thing I would urge you to think carefully about is your language. If you’re speaking to someone on a casting call or even a colleague in your team, then don’t assume their sexuality. Gender neutral terms like ‘partner’ instead of boyfriend/girlfriend are your friend. Don’t assume people do or don’t have children based on their gender, age, demographic etc. Don’t assume people did or didn’t go to University unless you’re looking at their CV or presented with facts. Instead ask questions, treat every person like a blank slate and find out their story in their words from their own mouths rather than filling in the blanks with assumptions. It sounds simple and you’re probably thinking “I already do that” but most people actually don’t. I catch myself NOT doing some of these things all the time; unlearning these behaviours is hard and it takes work.

It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back and sit comfortably in the knowledge that we have a (relatively) diverse group of friends and/or colleagues but that is simply not enough to create a truly inclusive industry and allow individuals to flourish within it. So this Pride month, really think about the assumptions you make and see if you can use more inclusive terms, language and questions to make sure that everyone feels truly included rather than having to smooth out their unique qualities to fit in. Asking someone to do that doesn’t only dim their own personal light, it prevents our whole industry from shining as brightly as it can.

Anna Brent, Global Head of Brand & DEI at creative agency Across the Pond, knows a thing or two about attracting and including LGBTQ+ talent to make their award-winning films.

Amazingly, despite the fact that those of us in the creative industries work (largely) in London or other major cities, we are (largely) all forward-thinking creative people, and are (largely) surrounded by progressive politics – there are still people who do not feel they can be ‘out’ in their workplaces. 

We should not assume that the job of making LGBTQ+ people feel a true sense of belonging at work is done. Research shows that workplaces where employees can bring their true and whole selves to work – do better. Diversity of thought and experience brings creative innovation and proper wellbeing. This means better work output and happy teams that want to stay in a company. 

We’re in a talent-centric market. People can choose who they work for by wanting more than just a paycheck. Companies need to proactively promote their values around inclusion to attract great, diverse teams. 

What are your policies? How well considered is your language? How does your leadership show allyship? How do queer people know that coming to work for you is not just safe but a place to thrive? Our differences make us unique and therefore, valuable. With a bit of well focused effort we can be the employers the rarest gems want to work for.

Tors Sorby, one of our Talent Managers at Talented People, feels passionately about how far the industry has come:

Everyone’s journey to coming ‘out’ and being open about their sexuality/gender identity is different. As someone who didn’t feel able to tell even my immediate family that I’m a gay woman until my late twenties, it’s fair to say that I haven’t always felt comfortable about sharing this information in the workplace.

15 years on from my own first coming ‘out’ and beginning my career in TV (unconnected), it feels liberating and brilliant to note that things have changed, and are continuing to change. My current and previous Talent Manager roles have seen me working for teams that truly celebrate and champion diversity in the TV industry – not tokenistically, but with a deep organisational commitment to recognising that, quite simply, diverse talent makes better, richer, more accessible television – and that we all need to play our part and making that happen.

This commitment also encompasses diversity within the organisations themselves. When I joined Talented People, I was brought in to a warm, friendly, open and inclusive culture and a team of diverse people – and there was never a question in my mind about how, when and if I would come ‘out’ – in fact I think I spoke about my girlfriend and our son in my first team meeting! This would never be something I would have been comfortable doing a few years ago.

We know that there is still a great deal to be done to create television that is truly reflective of the society we live in. Being part of teams which not only acknowledge this, but prioritise this, feels like a big step in the right direction.

Our team would love to hear from you.

Send or update your CV and browse our jobs board here. Talented People’s Live Sessions on Facebook are popular, so watch our social feeds for the next important and inclusive industry chat and join in with your own questions. You can find all previous ones on our site here. Follow Talented People on TwitterFacebook, Instagram & LinkedIn so you don’t miss good TV industry talk and news, as well as our latest job opportunities

**As a proud champion of diversity and equality in production, Talented People takes positive action to reach and represent marginalised or under-represented groups in the industry – be that race, disability, sexuality, gender, socio-economic background or religion, or indeed any other personal circumstance we can encourage conversation to support to get the best talent into the right jobs without prejudice e.g. jobsharing / flexible working requirement.**

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