As powerful as the statistics are this ladies’ message: “We just want to come to work without experiencing racism”.
After branding themselves as the BAME Task Force, Jacqueline Baker, Vivian Eguridu, Carissa Juma and Abby C Kumar penned an open letter, co-signed by 900 other signatories, to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who since February 2020 serves as HM Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but also signed by the PSBs, Netflix, and Amazon, outlining individual experiences of racism and offering a five-point plan for achieving better equality in society.
Within a week, several meetings had taken place with Tony Hall, Alex Mahon, Kevin Lygo and Ben Frow – with regular lines of communication into the PSBs now established.
“They were genuinely moved by the experiences in the letter,” Jacqueline Baker, one of the four women, explained.
Jacqueline Baker, Vivian Eguridu, Carissa Juma and Abby C Kumar explained that they are yet to gather face to face due to lockdown restrictions put in place to control the spread of coronavirus, as they have only met via the BAME TV Society Facebook group.
Yet, the lack of face-to-face interaction has definitely not held them back. The four female mid-ranking BAME group executives have revealed how they progressed from Facebook friends to securing weekly meetings with the Public Sector Banks (PSB). The unstoppable women also added that the government is next on their lobby list.
ViacomCBS Director of Programmes Ben Frow, struck and amazed by the ladies’ efforts, has quickly introduced a Promotion Opportunity Project as a direct result of his meeting with the group. Part of Viacom’s ‘no diversity, co-commission’ initiative, it supports offering mid-level BAME executives the opportunity to work on primetime programming.
Baker firmly pointed out: “We are solution-focused. We want to come up with practical schemes which tackle different areas, but specifically mid-level.”
Frow added: “It was from the energised and thoroughly enjoyable meeting with the BAME Task Force that we in C5 commissioning came up with our Promotion Opportunity Project.”
Eguridu said: “We’ve been encouraging cross-PSB collaboration for training and mentoring plans,” adding that they appear open to forming partnerships. “There is excitement about rallying together.”
Beyond this, the task force is hoping to generate additional momentum through ‘pan-broadcaster’ initiatives, as the group aims to include and increase BAME authorship by 25%, establishing an independent body to monitor grievances and improving Diamond data.
Of the latter, Juma stated: “How can you measure success without accurate data?”
Kumar also credits the group impact on the top echelons as a direct result of their mid-level ranking: “The voices we bring to the table aren’t the normal senior, internal people who advise on diversity policies,” she explained, suggesting that they offer a unique perspective on issues.
“There is something in the air,” Eguridu highlighted. “George Floyd was the catalyst and now it feels like people are genuinely listening.”