Family expectations or socio-economic issues: what holds POC back in creative industries?

Family expectations or socio-economic issues: what holds POC back in creative industries?

Low pay, poor career prospects, short-term contracts, instability. 

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a job in the creative industries isn’t exactly what any parents dream of for their children

The freelance culture and poor promotion prospects compared with traditional professions can be an added hurdle for young people of colour (POC) whose parents put a particular premium on seeing their talented children established in higher-status, better-rewarded careers.

But is this the case for all POC?

When Priya Matharu, a 22-year-old POC journalist from Birmingham, shared her dream of working in radio, the response from her parents was all positive.

Her journalistic career began when she pursued Broadcast Journalism at the University of Salford. Though it was a chance decision for her at the time, it was the reason she fell into radio.

“Luckily, I was quite supported because my sister also picked a creative subject – VFX – and they were always okay with that,” she said. “It wasn’t the same with my extended family though.

“When we see them at wedding functions, for example, and tell them that this is what I went into, I get a reaction that I wouldn’t necessarily say is negative, but not positive either. I suppose, with older generations, they don’t really know what journalism is, so you have to explain it. 

“Generally, though, it’s been quite supportive and positive which I’m lucky to have, as I know some people don’t really get that support.”

Priya’s mum, Harjit, felt that encouragement was the best way forward for both Priya and her sister. 

She recalled: “When they were at school and choosing their GCSEs, I always encouraged both of my girls – ‘do something that you want to go to into in the future, something that you enjoy, don’t listen to anyone else. If you do something from your heart that you want to do, you will thrive in it’.”

The encouragement applied to if they had chosen traditional subjects, too, Harjit said. She was certain that her children would be fine with whatever they went into, and she would be there for them if they weren’t. 

“I’ve seen the outcome,” she said with pride, referring to Priya’s weekly show on Switch Radio and presenting on Punjab 2000

“They really enjoy what they wanted to do, and I just let them carry on. I said, ‘it’s not my life, it’s your life, it’s your future, so you do whatever you want to do’.”

With a lack of studies in this area, a survey was conducted using Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) creatives.

“Parents want the best for their kids, and they do not understand that creative jobs are just as viable. They see freelancing as an unstable option compared to a 9-to-5 job,” admitted one anonymous participant when asked why they think there is a lack of POC in the industry.

Another shared: “It isn’t seen as a career for people of the previous generation to mine, which in itself creates a cycle of not having any figures to look up to.”

Despite half of the participants believing they faced racism and/or discrimination in their career, all participants were in agreement with one question: having a diverse creative industry is important. 

The results of a public survey about the experiences of people of colour in creative industries. Created by Aroob Raja.

As seen from other POC creatives, not all parents feel the same way for their children when pursuing a creative career such as journalism. This can be for many reasons, but the most discussed one is the clear pay gap between traditional careers and creative ones. 

Infographic depicting the highest salaries of traditional careers vs. creative careers. Created by Aroob Raja

Harjit believes, in her culture as a British-Indian, discouragement from parents is down to status, society and money. 

“It’s always subjects like medicine that are brought up,” she observed. “And yes, medicine will make you a lot of money, and money is important in a lot of ways. But at the end of the day, are your children happy doing what they are doing?”

The mother and daughter duo share their perspective on why there may be a lack of POC in the creative industries. Created by Aroob Raja.

So, even though a handful of POC creatives have a discouraging/misunderstanding family when it comes to their passions, it’s clear that not everyone faces the same experience. Other factors can come into it, such as money or class or privilege. 

Thankfully, companies like PressPad exist to counter these issues and give minorities a fair chance in the journalism industry. 

Acting as a social enterprise, PressPad focuses on removing the barriers minorities face to access a career in the media in the UK, primarily focusing on socio-economic disadvantages and geographical challenges.

Olivia Crellin, the founder, acknowledged her privilege as a White, middle-class woman, before diving into the issues she’s observed that POC face. 

“The challenges are numerous,” she said. “There’s systemic racism that affects a lot of people, and it’s fantastic that a lot of that is being expressed more openly, but it’s still a huge problem and it’s going to take a long time to solve.”

Acknowledging the geographic barriers journalists may face if not from a cosmopolitan area, Crellin also noted the double disadvantage POC journalists encounter with this. 

The government’s recent commission on race and ethnic disparities found that people from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to live in households with persistent low income. For those eager to enter the creative industry, travelling across the country for placements can be a challenge. 

“At PressPad, we combine mentorship and accommodation for people who are struggling to afford and are challenged by the logistics of moving into big cities,” she explained. 

“It’ll help them when wanting to do paid or unpaid work experience in journalism and the media.”

Recognising these issues is one thing, but then comes the biggest question of all. What are the main barriers blocking POC’s progress in creative industries?

The answer is everything. 

Whether it be money, status, family or privilege, the reasons are numerous. 

With companies like PressPad that focus on removing the barriers minorities encounter, it becomes easier to diversify the industry. But until then, we must recognise what the issues are so we can make an effort to combat them. 

As Priya put it perfectly: “The day brown people see another brown person on TV and don’t point them out excitedly is the day it will be normal. That’ll be a good place to be.”