In this third and final blog post in our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) series we reflect on diversity monitoring as a widespread ED&I strategy in the Creative Industries. We look at methods of data collection and some of the challenges involved.
For many Creative Industries organisations, their Equality, Diversity & Inclusion strategies start with collecting diversity monitoring data about their own teams and the teams who deliver the projects they fund. The data is measured against benchmark data – such as national demographics – to see if the organisation is more or less diverse than the general population.
This approach is advocated by the Creative Industries Council, an overarching organisation that brings together government, creative businesses and other creative organisations. In a report on Diversity & Inclusion in the Creative Industries, the Council recommends standardised diversity monitoring across all sectors of the Creative Industries where
“A long-term collaborative goal for diversity monitoring within the creative industries would be for each industry to have a similar approach to regular monitoring and reporting, which could then be combined to create an overall picture of the UK creative industries, and be compared to overall diversity in the UK.” (Creative Industries Council, 2020, p. 5)
Like the Creative Industries Council, Nesta, which hosts the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, also supports diversity monitoring, which it uses to address internal issues like its gender pay gap through robust data collection and analysis. Nesta views diversity monitoring data as a means to collect evidence about the current state of the Creative Industries and to measure progress since “Despite growing momentum to address EDI in the workplace and in social impact work, the evidence base for what works remains limited” (Nesta, 2021, p. 15).
Despite agreement that collecting diversity monitoring data is at least a starting point to improving ED&I issues, there are some challenges with this approach.
One issue is with data collection methods and whether they are suitable for the small sample sizes required to capture intersectional data. The arts hub Watershed has expressed the difficulties of this in relation to its own data monitoring activities:
“As part of our commitment to ensure anonymity of our staff data, and because of the expected small number of people in our intersectional data sets, we had committed to staff that we would not publish this data publicly.” (Watershed, 2021)
Watershed, like many other organisations, cannot be as transparent as it would like with its data without compromising the identities of its staff.
Also, organisations currently collect different categories of data, which makes it difficult to undertake comparisons across the Creative Industries and with national datasets from the Scottish Census or the Office for National Statistics.
A third key issue is hesitancy about providing personal data. Certain groups are more hesitant to provide monitoring data, and this may be because of legitimate concerns over safety and data privacy or it might be scepticism about data collection leading to material improvements for underserved communities.
How to mitigate these challenges?
Some efforts that might help improve these issues are setting data standards, and better coordination between Creative Industries organisations in their collection and use of data.
A report by Caitlin McDonald and Jennie Jordan finds that data in the Creative Industries is not used effectively or efficiently and they recommend “a common data standard for creative industries data that can be collected from individual creative practitioners as well as companies” (McDonald & Jordan, 2023, p. 4).
Directives from policymakers and funders for organisations to collect and share their data in a standardised way would reduce duplication of labour and make that data easier to compare. Cross-sector implementation of data gathering activities could also reassure individuals that sharing their data is safe and valuable.
Creative Informatics already undertakes diversity monitoring of the applicants we fund, with the results published in our Annual Report 2022 (Creative Informatics, 2022) and shared at Partnership Forums.
Creative Informatics also faces the same issues of capturing intersectional data, as discussed in our Creative Informatics Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy & Action Plan 2021-23:
“In line with best practices regarding the risk of identifying individuals we will not publish very small numbers of applicants/participants if this would be disclosive (unless in a case study with written permission).” (Osborne et al., 2021, p. 11)
Despite these challenges, we are committed to regularly reviewing the data we collect, how we use it and how we act upon it.
Those in the Creative Industries continue to reflect upon their data collection methods and work to improve them. To assist with this, one of Nesta’s aims is that “By 2025, we will have generated evidence supporting five ways of working that effectively address issues of discrimination and exclusion” (Nesta, 2021, p. 4). We look forward to seeing the results.
Creative Industries Council. (2020). Diversity & Inclusion Report 2019/20. https://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/site-content/uk-creative-overview-news-and-views-news-diversity-charter-update-report
Creative Informatics. (2022). Creative Informatics Annual Report 2022. https://creativeinformatics.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/CI-ANNUAL-REPORT-2022-FINAL-VERSION.pdf
McDonald, C., & Jordan, J. (2022). Detecting Dark Matter Data: data gaps for innovation and R&D activity in the creative industries [Creative Informatics Research Report]. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7418481
Nesta. (2021). Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Nesta. https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/Nesta_EDI_Strategy_FA_1.pdf
Osborne, N., Orme, A., Chan, K., Speed, C., Terras, M., Coleman, S., Gormezano Marks, A., Smyth, M., Somerville, R., Parkinson, C., & Turner, M. (2021). Creative Informatics Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy & Action Plan 2021-23. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5227270
Watershed. (2021). Watershed Staff and Board Inclusion Data 2020-21. https://www.watershed.co.uk/sites/default/files/publications/2021-06-23/staff-and-board-inclusion-data-report-2020_2021_public_.pdf