Founded in the late 1960s, Independent Television News (ITN) is famous across Britain for its nightly news bulletins which reach an estimated 10 million people. The company’s production arm also generates third-party content for a range of sectors including sports, advertising and education.
In this case study, Lucile Kamar, ITN’s recently appointed diversity and inclusion lead, explains how her team is extending opportunity to all corners of society and changing some tired old assumptions about the media industry in the process.
It’s a cliché as old as the typewriter and the sandwich board: the media, everyone knows, is a bastion of elitism. A world that’s sexy and dynamic but brutal and unforgiving, a world for the quick-witted but not the faint-hearted. Other industries may have moved on, but the media (especially in Britain) remains the preserve of privileged majorities. Or at least, that’s what they say.
But at ITN, one of Britain’s most respected journalistic brands, work is underway to eradicate this tired old trope once and for all. To create a genuinely universal pathway that allows everyone to push for the top, removing bias from the recruiting process and creating a world-class experience for both candidates and existing employees.
“It’s really about changing people’s perceptions about how you succeed, and who’s successful, in the industry,” says Lucile Kamar, ITN’s point-person on diversity and inclusion. “We need to ensure that all our audiences are represented, that differences are not only respected, but celebrated and that we promote genuine social mobility throughout the organisation.”
Lucile herself has only been with ITN a few months. After training in Paris, London and Los Angeles she began her career working for NGOs, striving to end the use of child soldiers. Since then she has focused on diversity, working for organisations like LendLease, Norton Rose Fulbright and the Liberal Democrats.
Assessing the issue
At ITN, she has joined an organisation which has already made great strides on diversity and inclusion. In October 2019 a company-wide survey, completed by an impressive 85% of ITN employees, revealed that 48% of the ITN workforce was female, 20% from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and 8% identified as LGBTQ+. The BAME and LGBTQ+ figures were both higher than the overall UK average, and while the female representation was slightly lower than the nationwide figure of 51%, it must be noted that the media industry average is only 45% (according to figures from 2016).
According to this census, however, only 4% of ITN employees have a disability, while the UK average is 19%. These figures reflect a long-standing concern that media organisations are blocking the entry of those with physical impediments; last year, Forbes published a stinging article suggesting that disabled people were being shut out of Hollywood. However, ITN is determined to break new ground.
Under the leadership of human resources director Alexandra Standfast, Lucile’s role is to build on this groundwork. ITN has already hit its BAME and LGBTQ+ representation targets for 2022, and the gender representation target (ITN is pushing for a 50-50 split) is within touching distance. However the company is determined to keep pushing. The immediate goal is two-fold: to ensure the positive representation figures are represented vertically, particularly at senior level, and drive gains in the areas ITN is still striving to improve, notably disability.
Indeed, Lucile and her team are designing a revised action plan with three key pillars: to improve awareness and ensure that ITN is disability-confident in terms of its recruitment targets; support its disabled colleagues and applicants when they apply, so all their needs are met; and make sure that the company has a confidence to talk around disability, both visible and invisible, as well as long-term conditions.
As Lucile says, “despite our progress so far, we need to talk more about social mobility and disability, we need to raise awareness, and we need to find those voices internally.”
Facilitating the conversation
This wraps into a wider campaign, whose goal is to create a welcoming environment for anyone with specific requirements. This goal is enshrined in a new Workplace Inclusion Passport which, in addition to disabled people, supports employees with long-term mental health conditions, carers, and even women going through menopause.
“It’s a document that accompanies employees throughout their career at ITN and allows us to ensure we provide the adjustments that they might need,” Lucile explains. “It also ensures that if an employee is promoted or is moving into a different department, there is a track record of where they need to be doing their job.
“And it really helps to facilitate the conversation around [colleagues’] skills, which can sometimes be quite tricky, particularly for managers who might not possess the skills or confidence to have these conversations.”
Indeed, a huge amount of effort has gone (and is going) into educating managers and colleagues around the changing needs of the modern hybrid workforce and embedding inclusive leadership skills. The focus is on empathy, authenticity and a certain strength in vulnerability; on allyship, and the ability to identify when it’s safe to intervene.
“It’s fundamentally about being a good people-person,” Lucile explains. “Diversity and inclusion is about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, about bridging the gap without expecting an employee from a minority background to be responsible for that.
“It’s also about creating an environment in which everyone feels safe. For example sometimes people have the camera off on videocalls, but they’re still participating, so we’re doing a lot of work on building trust. Just because you don’t see people doesn’t mean they’re not working. The focus needs to be based on output, rather than presenteeism – for roles which can be done remotely.
“We want to role-model behaviours, and empower people so they can step in and challenge [inappropriate behaviours]. But the great thing about journalists is that they’re very smart, passionate and curious. If we see banter or jokes that are inacceptable, we’re increasingly seeing that kind of behaviour being challenged.”