Why 2021 needs to be a summer of self-education for the industry

Leaders across NABS share their Diversity Equity and Inclusion journey and hopes for an inclusive recovery


Like so many in our industry, NABS has made serious inroads into its D, E&I journey since last year. The murder of George Floyd and subsequent events broken open the conversation around racism and discrimination in wider society as well as in our industry. At NABS, we knew instantly that we needed to address the issues with a renewed focus. D, E&I is one of the most important topics in our industry, and it’s one that requires thoughtful and planned education and discussion.

For NABS, our desire to strengthen our knowledge in D,E&I is for various reasons. Firstly, as the support organisation for the industry, it’s crucial that we can serve everybody who comes to us with the same degree of empathy and care. We can only do this if we have studied the challenges faced by groups across the industry. Secondly, we’ve always been advocates for a more equitable industry; learning about racism in-depth will help us to advocate more knowledgeably and more powerfully.

What’s more, we want to be able to recruit diverse teams, and to make everybody feel welcome and included if they come to work at NABS. For the NABS marketing team, the ability to speak to a diverse audience is also a crucial goal. All of this requires an open mind and open heart as we seek to learn about the issues and challenge our – and each others’ – perceptions. D, E&I is fully embedded into NABS’ values and strategy. So how will we get to our desired and diverse destination?

Here, three of NABS’ marketing team explain their education journey so far and what they’ve got planned for this summer to further develop their knowledge to inform their work from now into the future.

Lou Thompson

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Head of marketing and communications


The role of a marketer is essentially to get under the skin of their audience and understand their needs and desires, and then to use this insight to target their products and services to that audience. Simply put – in my view – it’s all about empathy.

When what you’re trying to promote to your audience is NABS, and the varied array of support services that people in our industry can access, it’s imperative that those from under-represented groups know that we’re here, and more importantly, that we’re able to support their unique challenges.

The recent results of the All In Census told us that 16% of our industry are from Black, Asian and other minoritised ethnic communities, 9.6% are LGBTQ+, 9.2% have a disability and 37% identify as being from working class backgrounds. Interestingly as an industry we over-index on gender and have a workforce made up of 58.7% women. When we look at C-suite roles, 67.6% are held by men and 93.6% are white.  Where is all our diverse talent going and why?

All In also told us that those from marginalised groups experience higher rates of poor mental health. If you work in our industry and are not from a dominant group, it stands to reason that you’re going to struggle more. You’re likely to be facing additional challenges such as micro-aggressions and having to cover or code-switch.

The industry can talk about D,E&I all it likes, but to really achieve diversity, you have to focus on equity and inclusion first. As an ally, it’s incumbent on me to drive the E and the I, and as a white woman it is down to me to do the work – to educate myself further.

Here at NABS, it’s imperative as a marketing team that we constantly educate ourselves and our D,E&I strategy is facilitating that. We are investing in an incredible suite of training, covering topics from allyship and privilege, to courage and language, all through an intersectional lens.

We’re also cascading a self-education model where teams come together in a safe space to understand more about topics from anti-racism to cultural appropriation. Our discussions aren’t always easy but I truly see the benefits both personally and professionally. They help me to question my own output and that of the team to create more inclusive work and reach and support the people who need us most in the industry.

Embarking on a journey of self-education in this area can feel like a minefield. There are so many challenges that need to be addressed, each of which are intertwined in a complex system of oppression. But start the learning by starting small. For example, if you steal free moments on Instagram during the day, start following people who don’t look like you to build empathy and understanding.

You can apply this technique to pretty much any media you consume. I’ll be continuing in this direction on my learning journey over the summer, building my empathy and ability to create genuine and helpful conversations with our audience and provide the content and support they need.

Louise Scodie

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Senior PR and communications manager


NABS has a D, E&I working group, made up of volunteer team members, to discuss and drive forward the issues internally. I joined the group two years ago, buoyed by a keen personal interest in working parents and women’s issues. Since the murder of George Floyd, the nature of our group’s work has changed and intensified, with a new lens on anti-racism, anti-Black racism and discrimination. And it has indeed been an education.

It’s been fascinating and challenging to help shape our D, E&I policy, and the team discussions that we’ve had to make this happen have been enlightening and uncomfortable in equal measure. That’s one key learning I’ve taken so far. This is not comfortable work. It’s not supposed to be. Without challenge, there will be no change.

NABS has enlisted a series of specialist training providers to help educate us on many of the aspects of D, E&I. So far, we’ve heard from Naren Patel, NABS Trustee and MEFA trailblazer, as well as The Other Box – both sessions providing a space to explore discrimination and what we as individuals and as a team can do to challenge it. We’re also doing group self-education in teams, led by team members, where we pick a theme and discuss it to better understand it.

What I’ve enjoyed most of all, and what I’ll be doing more of this summer, is self-education. NABS have given us an hour a week to self-educate, doing whatever that looks like for us. What I’ve discovered is that I will do this more regularly if it’s something I can build into my life. For me, that’s listening to podcasts, particularly while out for a walk. This is the easiest way to incorporate learning into my hectic working parent schedule. I can highly recommend Brene Brown, who’s given a platform to many voices in this space, as well as Adam Grant, whose recent podcast with US Black business leader Mellody Hobson was mind-opening. I’ll be searching my podcast platform for similar shows over the summer.

Lewis Hil

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Senior digital marketing manager


Working primarily in the digital space there is a wealth of helpful content produced by creators and influencers in our industry. So much so, that knowing where to start can often feel overwhelming. When NABS partnered with The Other Box for their course ‘Allyship In The Workplace’, it was the primer I needed to kickstart my DE&I learning journey, or unlearning journey as it turned out to be.

Crucial to being a true ally was approaching self-education with a growth mindset; embracing challenges, being open to feedback. Using that as my starting point has been crucial to doing the work that allyship requires. It was remarked in the session that where someone’s privilege intersects with another’s oppression, there’s an opportunity for change, and that really stuck with me. Reflecting on this helped me look for ways to elevate and support others in ways big and small.

Two other points that landed with me from the session that I could swiftly put into place over the summer was to diversify my media inputs to broaden the diversity of experiences I see, and also be more intentional with where I spend my money. Simple steps that actively increase allyship in my everyday life. Similarly, NABS is actively seeking to hear from marginalised groups and how NABS can support them better through research. Anyone wanting to take part should visit: https://nabs.org.uk/about-nabs/nabs-research.