Where are the black creative directors?

I didn’t meet my first black creative director until 2018 after spending 6 years in the agency space.

His name was Omar.

It was an emotional experience for me – I had so many questions. I remember sitting down to talk with him privately asking him questions like:

  • How have you maneuvered through this space while not seeing many examples of yourself today?
  • What was your journey in fighting to take a seat that many of us may never see?
  • How do I get there?

Many of the answers he had, unfortunately, couldn’t be vocalized in steps.

The creative agency industry has a diversity problem, with black creative directors being severely underrepresented. According to The Drum, only 3% of creative directors in the UK and 5% in the US are black, despite black people making up a significant portion of the population.

The lack of representation is due to a systemic issue ingrained in the industry’s culture, where black creatives often face a glass ceiling that hinders their career growth and development. They may be pigeonholed into specific roles or not given the same opportunities for promotion and advancement as their other colleagues.

Moreover, black creatives have limited access to mentorship opportunities, which can further hinder their career growth. Agencies can help by actively recruiting black talent, creating an inclusive and supportive work environment, and offering mentorship and career development opportunities to all employees.

To address the issue, agencies must examine their internal culture and practices to ensure they’re not perpetuating systemic biases. By fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace, agencies can attract and retain the best talent, regardless of race or ethnicity.

In my own experience as a creative director, it’s been limiting. I feel like there’s still work that needs to be done even if I’d like to be done with it. Black and brown people need to see other black and brown people in position. My mission is to continue being the “Omar” to someone else’s journey.

The lack of black creative directors in the creative agency space is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. Agencies must take proactive steps to create a diverse and inclusive environment, provide mentorship opportunities and equal access to advancement, to help black creatives succeed and contribute to producing innovative and groundbreaking work.

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