Toolkit launched to address ‘class crisis’ in creative industries - Museums Association

Toolkit launched to address ‘class crisis’ in creative industries

Resource to help employers widen access to people from working class backgrounds
Diversity Social Mobility
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has produced a toolkit that aims to tackle the “class crisis” in the creative industries and widen access to people from non-privileged backgrounds.

The arm’s-length body, which works to address social mobility on behalf of the UK Government, developed the toolkit in partnership with with businesses from across the creative industries, including the Museums Association. It offers tailored advice for cultural and creative sector employers and practical support and guidance on how to identify and remove invisible barriers that arise during the employee journey.

According to research set out in the toolkit, 52% of those working in creative industry sectors are from high socio-economic backgrounds, compared to just 27% from working class backgrounds.

The toolkit identifies the sector’s reliance on professional roles and self-employment as barriers to class diversity, along with the prevalence of unpaid internships. The geography of the sector, with more than half of all creative organisations operating from London or the south-east, presents a further challenge to people from non-privileged backgrounds.  

“Putting an emphasis on socio-economic diversity within the workforce has been shown to have a demonstrable impact on the productivity of businesses across a range of sectors, and prioritising this issue could see a huge return for those creative employers willing to take the necessary steps,” said the commission’s senior campaign manager, Huw Penson.

He added: “The SMC’s new toolkit for the creative industry includes recommendations tailored to creative sector employers which will help you to refine your policies around recruitment, progression, and outreach, as well as the steps you can take to build an inclusive culture.” 

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Museums Association director Sharon Heal said she was delighted that the association had been involved in the creation of the toolkit. She said: “Inequality in society and in our museums and galleries is a pressing challenge. We welcome the publication of this toolkit and would encourage museums and galleries to use it to engage, recruit and develop people from non-privileged backgrounds.

“We want museums to reach the broadest possible audiences and to work with diverse and under-represented communities, and to do that we need to grow a workforce that is representative of all sections of society.”

The toolkit is available on the Social Mobility Commission website. A free webinar will take place on Monday 11 October from 1300-1400 to launch the toolkit.

Social mobility pilot programme

Meanwhile a new pilot scheme has been launched by Jerwood Arts to provide curatorial and leadership development for early-career visual arts curators from low socio-economic backgrounds.

The 12-month Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator programme will support a cohort of curators through dedicated mentoring, training, and research; working with eight host organisations to introduce them to artistic networks across the UK. Jerwood Arts will appoint host organisations over autumn 2021 and select fellows in spring 2022.

Organisations interested in being part of the pilot programme are invited to get in touch via info@jerwoodarts.org.

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Comments (1)

  1. Jason Finch says:

    Sorry but this makes me laugh but not in a “ha ha” way.

    I joined the museum sector in the late 90s at which stage I was seen as just about “middle class” and part of the museum establishment.
    In 2020 I left, due to a combination of tiredness with the sector and the Covid crisis, by which time I was often told by (usually younger) peers I was an example of the working class breaking into the sector.

    The museum sector has gone backwards on soco-economic inclusion in the last 20 years and shouldn’t be welcoming this but instead hanging its head in shame and going “we have messed up on this”. It has made excellent progress on diversity in regards ethnicity but forgotten about “class”.

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