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Suzanne Black

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Intersectionality

Reflections on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in the Creative Industries 1

Here at Creative Informatics we have made Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) core aspects of our activities. Some of our efforts have been public-facing, such as our ED&I Statement, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy & Action Plan 2021-23 and discussions at our regular Partnership Forums. Some of them have been behind the scenes.

In this blog series we share three topics that surfaced during that work – intersectionality, diversity monitoring data, and how to measure the success of ED&I strategies – with the hope of furthering the conversations around them.

Our first blog post dives right into the issues of intersectionality, a term that is often used in the context of ED&I activities.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a familiar term in discussions of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, but it can be used to mean different things. Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced the concept in 1989, and this TED Talk by Crenshaw offers a good introduction.

In 2013 Crenshaw, along with Sumi Cho and Leslie McCall, reflected on how the term has been understood, misunderstood and mobilised in academia and activism. They define intersectionality as working to “illuminate how intersecting axes of power and inequality operate to our collective and individual disadvantage” (Cho et al., 2013, pp. 795-6) to create a network of overlapping structures of power in which we are all enmeshed.

Although Cho, Crenshaw and McCall stress that intersectionality in its original conception is about “structures of power and exclusion” rather than “the infinite combinations and implications of overlapping identities” (Cho et al., 2013, pp. 797), its effects can be seen in the ways in which the needs of groups that are multiply marginalised are often not addressed by existing ED&I measures.

Intersectionality in the Creative Industries

Inequalities in the Creative Industries due to class, gender, ethnicity and disability have been widely acknowledged (Creative Industries Council, 2020) and are magnified for people who are multiply marginalised. Intersectionality is cited by many Creative Industries organisations as part of their ED&I strategies and, for many, intersectionality means collecting diversity monitoring data that captures multiple forms of marginalisation. This is Creative Informatics’ approach as we collect diversity monitoring data about the individuals and project teams that we fund.

However, there are difficulties with this data-led approach. Collecting such detailed data runs counter to data ethics principles about anonymity: more detailed demographic data combining multiple protected characteristics very quickly leads to small sample sizes that could be used to identify individuals.

Creative Informatics has run into this problem: “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” (Osborne et al., 2021, p. 11).

Because of these difficulties, there is little published intersectional data about the Creative Industries.

Approaches

Suggestions for how to better collect and use intersectional data include strategies such as “oversampling minoritised groups to ensure a meaningful (sub-)sample size” or combining “quantitative analysis with qualitative experiences” (Nesta, 2021, p. 15).

An example of moving away from metrics to gathering qualitative data is the work the digital creativity hub Watershed are doing. As well as collecting data about the make-up of their organisation, they surveyed staff about their sense of belonging. Asking staff about how they experience organisational culture and how employee experience differs between people with different identities (Watershed, 2021, p. 23) is intended to better attend to the nuance and variety of individual identities.

There are two approaches here. One is how to use diversity monitoring data to capture the nuances of intersectional workforce without putting individuals at risk, and one is whether diversity monitoring data alone is the right approach.

What’s next?

Calls for improved attentiveness to intersectionality in the Creative Industries go beyond data monitoring and instead advocate for structural change.

Rather than “levelling up”, where ED&I initiatives function to make minoritised workers more like majority of workers, Tamsyn Dent argues that “Intersectionality should not be a buzz-word to reflect multiplicity, but a field of enquiry that considers the discourses of sameness and difference across factors of race, gender, sexuality, mobility” (Dent, 2020).

Tea Uglow, who is the creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney and works with international cultural and creative organisations, similarly argues for a complete transformation of the Creative industries:”

I find it odd to ask a minority to change the majority’s view. Bringing in one queer architect won’t “revamp” your firm – it’s a start but needs to move beyond tokenism. It is those who are the least affected by such issues who need to be engaging in the conversation. We need everyone to wake up.” (Uglow, 2018)

These exhortations to return to the original meaning of intersectionality, that is, understanding the power structures that inform identities, may be a way of getting around the problems with collecting intersectional monitoring data to achieve meaningful reform.

 

see our post on Measuring the Success of ED&I Activities

see our post on Diversity Monitoring Data

see our post on Acting on Feedback

 

References

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

Cho, S., Crenshaw, K. W., & McCall, L. (2013). Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis. Signs, 38(4), 785–810. https://doi.org/10.1086/669608

Dent, T. (2020, October 28). Diversity, intersectionality and care in the UK screen sector. EncatcSCHOLAR. http://blogs.encatc.org/encatcscholar/?p=2706

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

Uglow. (2018, March 8). “We need everyone to wake up.” Google’s Tea Uglow on intersectionality in the creative industries. It’s Nice That. https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/tea-uglow-intersectionality-in-the-creative-industries-opinion-internationalwomensday-080318

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