The Barber Shop founder Dino Myers-Lamptey has created a non-profit initiative that showcases potential speakers across genders, ages and races for industry events.
Created in response to a demand for a wider demographic of keynote speakers during events and conferences, Diverse Speakers serves as a database that organisers can use to find a range of specialists for their events.
According to Myers-Lamptey, five events and 17 speakers registered with Diverse Speakers in the first hour of its launch on Monday.
"There are tonnes of people out there who are great speakers and who have always been available, but are never really contacted because of the methods that are used to reach and connect them," he told Campaign.
Myer-Lamptey explained that Diverse Speakers was inspired by his own experience of attending events and seeing the overwhelming number of comments surrounding "manels" (male-only panels) – something that he said is due to a lack of focus on diverse perspectives when organising events.
He continued: "It's hard enough to organise an event, let alone find the right speakers with points of view on the right topics.
"A lot of the time, organisers want big hitters to come in and draw in audiences, but by design the industry is disproportionately negatively represented at a higher level, which means that the big names of the people are likely to be male and white."
Myers-Lamptey added that the diversity disparity in industry functions has been further highlighted by the new era of digital-only events prompted by Covid-19 restrictions.
The launch comes after the IPA Agency Census in April that found the number of employees from black, Asian and minority-ethnic backgrounds in UK agencies has fallen at each of the three highest levels of seniority.
Likewise, Campaign’s first Covid-19 Inclusion Pulse found that while 58% of male talent felt confident that they would remain employed, despite economic uncertainty brought on by coronavirus, a lower proportion of BAME talent (46%) and women (45%) shared this optimism.
Myers-Lamptey said: "If you're in your little echo chamber, then you end up providing very good single-minded results that all look a little bit familiar.
"A lot of innovative thinking – the real doers, makers and innovators – are actually not sitting at the top of the industry. They're the ones doing the work and challenging the system from within."
He noted that in an industry that is constantly changing, disruptors should be better represented in events, even if they are not perceived as "big hitters".
Last week, Oliver’s Amina Folarin argued in Campaign that "racism is businesses’ last taboo", encouraging businesses across the industry to better "receive, nurture and accelerate black talent" as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to dominate the agenda around the world.