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Are skinny jeans a barrier to diversity?

Are skinny jeans a barrier to diversity?

I always knew I had a fashion blog inside of me. It’s probably where it should remain.

However, having attended a Taylor Bennett Foundation (a charity dedicated to encouraging BAME graduates to pursue a career in communications) roundtable earlier in the week, the topic of dress code came up and I felt compelled to write something about it.

Now, before we get into this, many will tell you that since the start of 2017 I’ve undergone a slight change in the way I dress for work. I’ve got a bit smarter. Not fashionable, my clothing choices take me no further than the aisles of M&S, but certainly more business like.

Why did I decide to make this change? Is it to impress? No. I’m lucky enough to have a good position within a great agency. They accepted me into their ranks as a scruffy git.

No the reason for my change in work style was because my family and friends couldn’t quite believe I went to work looking like I was out of work. Actually, they felt it was a bit disrespectful to the job.

‘I’m creative’, I would cry. ‘I don’t need to dress smart, people expect me to look like this.’ It’s true, most creatives dress like the offspring of Marilyn Manson and Taylor Swift, but what signal does that send to people we’re trying to attract to the creative and communication world?

Well, the message from some of the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s alumni was clear. It sends out the wrong message to the family of those considering a career in comms from BAME backgrounds. It doesn’t look professional and going into a proper profession is exactly what’s expected of the people we’re trying to attract into the industry.

As we continue to strive for a more diverse workforce in communications, we’re going to be butting up against some pretty serious players. Accountancy, law, finance these are the ‘professions’ that PR and comms aspire to be like and compete against for talent.

Now, we’re still quite a way off from Her Majesty or whoever else declaring comms a profession. But perhaps we can act like one a bit more. While many will have dropped a jaw at the thought of tighter dress codes we need to think about the audiences we’re trying to attract and who they’re influenced by.

Forget the clients and the grumpy CEO from the 80’s. It’s the parents and partners of the next wave of talent from that need to see our industry as professional as well as creative.

If we don’t think about our image, then you can be damn sure our talent pool will continue to remain shallow and our lunch will be eaten by a suit.

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