Media companies can do more to address inequality and give opportunity to those from less privileged backgrounds.
Amy Grier, deputy editor at Cosmopolitan UK, said at the PPA Festival (9 May 2019) that the publisher had taken steps to change its hiring strategy after realising it was not attracting talent from outside the south of England.
Grier explained that a job advert for an entry level position with the London living wage would attract over 1,000 entries, but these would be dominated by applicants from London or from areas just outside the capital.
"Obviously, some of those were brilliant people, but there were also people from Manchester, Leeds, Scotland or Wales who we just weren’t capitalising on and who didn’t feel able to apply for that position for whatever reason," Grier said.
To address this, Cosmopolitan UK launched a campaign called Home, Made in collaboration with the social enterprise Dot Dot Dot, that utilises disused buildings to help people rent for up to a third of the price. As part of the campaign, Cosmopolitan UK rehoused 12 women in 2017 and is on the lookout for new applicants.
Following that success, the magazine launched a one-month scholarship scheme with SpareRoom in December 2018, offering a London living wage with travel and accommodation included. The four successful applicants will be taking up their positions this July.
"That is again trying to attract people who might think that internships in the media are prohibitive to them," said Grier, adding that the publisher had to consider carefully what was required of applicants in the recruitment process.
For example, when Cosmopolitan UK was hiring a new graphic designer, it initially required the candidate to do a layout of a page but later realised not all candidates have equal access to resources.
"Not everyone has access to InDesign. It’s a massive assumption to ask to do a layout when not everyone does," she said.
"You have to take a step back to actually see the privilege you’re assuming sometimes," she said.
Justine Greening MP, chair of the Social Mobility Pledge, joined Grier on the panel and said that companies should be tackling the issue on three fronts; helping employability, for example by working in schools; employment, by taking steps to make recruitment processes fairer; and progression, by ensuring people from different backgrounds feel included and welcome once in the organisation.
Greening, who herself was the first education secretary to go to a comprehensive school, also explained that promoting a more diverse environment and attitude to hiring does not have to result in large expense.
"Culture change in an organisation doesn’t have to cost anything," she said.
"This is not a cost, this is an investment in getting the brains that will help your companies be even better in the future. It’s not a trade-off between the bottom line and being diverse, they are absolutely linked together."