Promoting Diversity in Wales

Promoting Diversity in Wales

By Vicki Spencer-Francis – Managing Director, Cowshed

KEEPING quiet is not in my nature. Seven years ago, I decided to set up my own comms agency. And although going it alone was slightly terrifying, it meant that I could work on campaigns that would make an impact on society and employ people who I trusted to shout about causes that were important. And diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace is not something to remain silent about.

There are 3.2million people living in Wales. We’re diverse, we have our own language and at one point in time, the bustling docks of Tiger Bay in Cardiff was home to people from more than 50 nationalities, making the Welsh capital one of the first multicultural cities in the world. Nowadays, six per cent of the population in Wales identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic, with that figure rising to 21 per cent in Cardiff. One third of the population speak the Welsh language and one fifth is classed as disabled.

Our job is to communicate news and information to everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation, social class, race or religious background – but how could I do that as a middle-class, well-educated, English-speaking white woman? At one stage, Cowshed didn’t even have any men on the payroll. And yet, here we were trying to build campaigns in health and social care, mental health and wellbeing, education, business/economy etc. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t right. And it needed to change.

So, three years ago, we set up Wales’ first internship for Black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in partnership with Race Council Cymru to help develop rising stars and work towards parity in PR. We wanted to build a team with different backgrounds, different cultures, languages and ideas so that we can deliver inclusive campaigns that represented the whole of Wales.

“Three years ago, we set up Wales’ first internship for Black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in partnership with Race Council Cymru to help develop rising stars and work towards parity in PR”

So far, five young people have gone through the internship and been given valuable, hands on experience to prepare them for the world of PR, with us or elsewhere. We’ve just closed applications for the third intake, with people applying from as far as Nigeria and New York. Now, we work with local influencers and community leaders to get our messages in front of the right people and to help us ask the right questions. We employ four Welsh speakers to deliver Welsh-first campaigns, we’re a certified Autism Aware business, Disability Confident – and we are committed to change, looking at our own internal structures and ensuring clients sign up to our ways of working and culture.

We’re also lucky in Wales to have a piece of world leading legislation to keep us on track: The Well-Being of Future Generations Act. The seven well-being goals that form this act give organisations a fantastic foundation from which to think and build solutions that will enhance the long-term impact of what we do. It encourages us to work better with people, communities and each other, and to tackle persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. The Act is unique to Wales and is attracting interest from countries across the world as it offers a huge opportunity to make a long-lasting, positive change to current and future generations.

Being awarded Blueprint Ally status is just the start for Cowshed; it’s our commitment to promoting racial diversity in PR – from our hard-working interns to our creative directors. We will soon have a workforce as diverse as Cardiff, the city we call home. We’ve created a D&I workstream, are in the process of developing an audience advisory board to make sure that we amplify all perspectives – and one member of my team has taken on responsibility for ensuring we stick to the Blueprint 23 commitments, which in turn will make sure that Cowshed continues to become more inclusive as the agency grows.

So there is still so much for us to do. As the leader of 25 talented individuals, I worry about saying the wrong thing; that speaking up about diversity and inclusion will draw public criticism. But what terrifies me more is inaction. And while I don’t have all the answers and may make mistakes, I will stay curious and keep asking questions. I’m not going to keep quiet – and neither will my team.