35 ways to make hiring fairer at design studios

Agencies including AKQA, Framestore and ustwo give tips on how studios can help improve diversity in the creative industries.


After talking to leading creatives about what they’re focusing on for the year ahead, we noticed a huge push towards improving diversity in the workplace.

We spoke to eight leading creative studios in the UK and US about what they’re doing to tackle diversity right now in the areas of gender, ethnicity and socio-economic position. You can read the full feature here, but if you don’t have time we’ve put together the main tips, recommendations and honest insights from each creative studio for your light reading. Each bullet point is either a direct quote or paraphrased from my conversations with each agency. 

From unconscious bias training to rolling out long-term apprenticeship schemes for those without a university degree, each agency recognises a need for a diverse range of voices and is actively striving for this ideal. However, they were quick to note improving diversity doesn’t happen overnight – it’s about patience, passion and diligence. 

AKQA

Ginny Golden, group creative director

• We believe there is power in having an equally diverse set of qualified candidates to choose from. For the most part, that comes from our recruiting team.

• I won’t lie; it takes twice as much time to find a senior female creative as it does a senior male creative. What’s important is that we take the time to find those that are hard to find. 

• Don’t waste your time looking for a sliver bullet. It’s a journey. You must keep track of the breakdown of your workforce and continue to revisit it - making the topic of diversity a measurement in your overall business performance.

• If employees leave because they feel they don’t fit in, the diversity of your organisation will not improve.

• In my opinion, the diversity challenge seems solvable. That, over time we can get there. 


Blue State Digital

Kate Swann, chief operating officer 

• We have a person host an unconscious bias training on a regular basis inside the organisation. 

• We have a system that tracks a hiring and candidate.

• We've tried to create relationship for recruiting, with, for instance, City College in New York, which is practically free. And with Howard University, and Spelman, and some of those colleges that are both geared towards African-American students.

• We have asked the hiring managers to make sure their final three or four candidates for a position include somebody from an underrepresented category.

• We found was that there were situations where we did hire people from a different background, and they struggled. So, the other piece that we've had to focus on is once we hire somebody, we need to make an extra effort to make sure that they're successful. 

• Our HR team is working with the hiring managers, doing a more proactive review after 60 days, and sort of saying, "Hey, this person, do they need more training in a particular area? Is there some place where we have to give them more support?" 

• Some of the people within the organisation, it's about eight people, are regularly meeting and pushing us on a regular basis to hold us accountable.

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Gentleman Scholar New York

Christina Roldan, executive producer

• The main issue within any industry that lacks diversity is the stagnation that ultimately results. Nothing new or good has ever come from thinking in a straight line.

• Diversity makes working in the creative industry more interesting. Constantly questioning the status quo is a good thing for this industry and for people in general. 

• The applicants are the most powerful people to bring change. 


Mill Group

Claire Anderson, head of talent

• Using National Inclusion Week as a springboard, we have since re-established the Inclusion Network, built a Group wide mentoring programme and included unconscious bias awareness. Our ambition for this year’s event is to run a wider VFX Industry Week across our collective studios. 

• We have external partnerships with organisations such as Animated Women UK, The Prince's Trust, We Are Stripes, Creative Skillset and Next Gen

• Diversity and Inclusion should feed into every conversation and permeate out across our business. Diversity and inclusion should be a consideration that underpins every decision.

• Senior leadership and managers need to influence their teams and actively encouraging diversity and Inclusion to form part of everyday decision making but it doesn’t stop there. 


Special Projects

Clara Glaggero Westaway, co-founder

• Still only a few years ago, when computer manufacturers were doing a female version, they would make it pink or floral in some way. This was very patronising.
There is the need of beauty and the need of empathy in industrial design and digital design more than ever before.

• This is why girls could see the opportunity of bringing beauty, bringing harmony, bringing empathy, into this profession that probably for many years has been seen as a very scientific and cold profession. 

• The interior of the working environment that we have created makes everyone feel at ease and feel that they can contribute. It's very relaxed. So maybe that's something a bit practical that we do.

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ustwo

Nicki Sprinz, business co-ordinator 

• There has to be an appetite to believe that that diversity actually produces better work.

• Senior leadership needs to buy into the idea of diversity otherwise nothing happens.

• Try reverse mentoring – where a junior gives a senior member perspective on what it’s like to start out in the company.

• Celebrate contribution of women more. Keep talking about the behaviour that needs to change, such as in Silicon Valley.


Framestore

Amy Smith, global head of recruiting 

• We feel that it's too late to be trying to address diversity in this industry if you're only talking to universities. So now my team works with both secondary and primary schools, trying to encourage people to consider careers in this industry. 

• Our apprenticeship scheme is aimed at people who have finished education at the age of 18 and who looking for an alternative to university. So it's an 18-month programme. They spend 80 percent of their time learning with us on the job. They may spend 20 percent of their time in formal education, so getting that classroom training. They are paid a salary, and in addition we pay for their education. 

• Interestingly in this first round of apprenticeship recruitment, we have ended up - of our five apprentices, four of them are white, British, and middle class. We've learned that just because you have a programme that's potentially open to diversity doesn't necessarily mean you get a more diverse range of applicants.

• The STEM Ambassadors Programme is all about encouraging young people to see that careers in science and technology aren't just the things they're aware of. We are STEM Ambassadors, and we actually spend quite a lot of our time trying to do specifically Girls in STEM events.

• It's not just the recruitment problem. It's a big cultural problem, and you have to get people to be open to it in order that everyone feels comfortable in their working environment. 


Adaptive Lab

Kayleigh Smart, talent manager 

• Pi People for us means individuals with an extra leg to their original T-shape. Have we managed to attain some diversity within our speakers? Yes. Could this be better? Absolutely! 

• Presenting facts alongside the reasons why we as a company believe this to be important is a great way to educate and engage. 

• Unconscious bias training. When done well it’s very enlightening, supportive and actionable. 

• Men mentoring women. At first I thought this effort was too prescribed - "Hey senior man, be good and help this junior woman", but in reality it’s good for both sides and will hopefully change cultures at their core. 

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