Words: Sophie Henderson
Whilst the media industry itself is on its way to becoming a more inclusive environment, are teams at the forefront of content production as diverse as we think? Isabella Silvers is one half of Hearst BAME – the network celebrating inclusivity in the workplace. We sat down with the Digital Writer, who has produced work for the likes of Cosmopolitan, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar (to name a few), to discuss all things diversity.
Hi Izzy! Could you describe the Hearst BAME Network? What is your role?
Hearst BAME is Hearst UK’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic network, set up by Dionne Maxwell and supported by me. I do all of our social media activity, and together me and Dionne work to achieve the aims of the network. Broadly, we aim to make recruitment practices more inclusive, give our followers advice and assistance in making it in the industry, and increase cultural awareness and celebrations internally in the business.
We do this through social posts, blog posts on our intranet and internal celebrations – this could include food, Spotify playlists, decorations, workshops, talks and screenings. We also work with our senior leadership.
Could you tell us a bit about your proudest achievement?
I don’t know if I’m there yet! I think after years of interning for free to finally be offered a paid job at Hearst, through the moderately traditional route of applying through a recommendation, interviewing and being offered the job was really gratifying. It made me feel like I was actually good at what I do, as with all other jobs I’d just kind of fallen into them.
But, winning the PPA 30 Under 30 Award was also big for me. Winning a PPA and a BSME have always been on my career goals list for ages and so it was exciting to win, and again to see that other people valued and respected what I do. What I would really be proud of is to make tangible change in my company and improve racial diversity, especially in our content.
Is media itself developing into a more inclusive environment?
Change is happening for sure. Brands and magazines are finally beginning to realise that featuring more diverse content is not only the right thing to do, but it increases your audience and reaches a new group of people you haven’t been targeting before. I think audiences are savvy and they know when something is done authentically and are very quick to point out any publicity stunts. That’s why it’s so important to make a meaningful, lasting decision to be more inclusive in your content, and to tap the right people to do it. This is also why it’s so important to HIRE diverse teams, as Media will never truly be inclusive until we have people at all walks of life, at all levels. At the moment, junior members of teams feel like they have to try and ‘fit in’ as there are a lack of role models like them, and this isn’t inclusive. People should feel like they can be themselves, completely.
The change is happening at a grass roots level with heaps of amazing organisations helping people (Fashion Roundtable, Creative Access, The Other Box spring to mind) but needs to happen at a senior level.
“Media will never truly be inclusive until we have people at all walks of life, at all levels”
What would your advice be to someone, regardless of their background, wanting to pursue a career in journalism?
I would say you need to be tenacious and determined, be prepared to start at the very bottom and be happy to take on small tasks. Make the most of every single opportunity because you never know who you will meet and where it might lead you. For example, I went to panel talks, I interned backstage at shows, I worked in the fashion cupboard even though I knew I wanted to write, but I learned something from every experience, even if it wasn’t directly about writing. Working in the cupboard is also how I got my first paid full-time role.
Follow people on social media, as this is often where people share jobs. Follow editors, editorial assistants, fashion editors etc.
Sign up to the Gorkana jobs mailing list, and get your LinkedIn profile up to scratch. Also, check out the jobs page of each publishing house and follow them on Twitter, and have a look into The Dots. Join any talent pools these places may have.
Get work experience! It’s hard to find a slot sometimes, but it’s the number one way to get your name known and build a positive reputation. I always recommend great work experience to people I know in the industry. Through interning you’ll get to know other people and interns who you can stay friends with throughout your career. Be proactive, positive and let the team know what your ambitions are. Chase the person too! I always mean to reply to people and it just drops down my To Do list, so don’t be scared to chase people.
What do you want to know from #HearstBAME? We want to give you expert advice from Hearst staff on how to find work experience, what makes a job application stand out and more insider tips – let us know what you want us to ask in the comments below! 👇🏽 #bame #jobs #careeradvice #workexperience #internships #fashioninterns #journalism #journointerns
I also learnt a lot from reading magazines, reading books about fashion, autobiographies of editors etc, watching shows like The Hills and The City where they interned for a PR company (sounds silly but it’s true!), Next Top Model etc, fashion films and documentaries, exhibitions – really immerse yourself in the world!