June Sarpong hails 'excitement' over inclusion after BLM movement

TV presenter said: 'It was undeniable in terms of how the incident of [the George Floyd] case unfolded.'

Sarpong: speaking during a panel session organised by Kantar
Sarpong: speaking during a panel session organised by Kantar

June Sarpong has hailed the "excitement" around inclusion amid the Black Lives Matter movement because it is making people look at underrepresentation and injustice.

The TV presenter and BBC's diversity chief explained that the killing of George Floyd has shown people that this is more than just racial inequality.

"What has happened with the George Floyd killing and the outpouring that was unleashed on all of us, we just knew that this was completely wrong and we also knew why it was wrong, because it represented something in society that many people perhaps have tried to deny and avoid, and it was undeniable in terms of how the incident of that case unfolded.

"What we now have is an excitement around this, and what it has done is it's making us look at underrepresentation and injustice in general."

She was speaking yesterday, during a panel session organised by Kantar around Black Lives Matter, alongside Labour frontbench MP David Lammy and WPP UK country manager and chief executive of Group M Karen Blackett.

Lammy agreed with Sarpong and said that even though diversity and inclusion has been on the agenda for some time, it was often about making progress on gender equality.

He said: "It meant that you could avoid talking about race and, most often, avoid talking about black and blackness. One of the things, I think, that comes out of Black Lives Matter is we can talk about the reality of being black. Now my focus tends to be obviously on the criminal justice system, particularly, but there's a whole raft of areas."

Lammy also said that there has been "huge progress" in Parliament across all political parties over the past five years in terms of inclusion of those from black, Asian and minority ethnic populations.

"I think that that does contribute to economic power, particularly those people that advance up to senior positions," he added.

Blackett reiterated a need for data if adland is going to have diversity of thought and creativity. Teams need to be formed of people who understand the stories of the UK audience, she said.

"You've got to bring people into the room that understand those stories and how to connect," she said. "For me, it starts with data. It starts with understanding who you already have in your organisation and making sure that you really see where your gaps are.

"Data is such a big part of this, and I know it doesn't sound very sexy but it is, in terms of understanding where you are and where you need to get to, to reflect the audience that you're trying to communicate with. You need to make sure that every single decision-making board in your organisation has diverse representation."

Before the lockdown, WPP carried out a "UK Belonging" survey, but the reporting came with its own issues, as Blackett discovered. She attributed difficulties in obtaining data anonymously down to individuals fearing that, because of lack of diversity within a team, they may be easily identifiable.

"I know that there is an ethnic-minority presence in some of our organisations or across the business, yet the percentage who declared was 0%.

"Part of that is for fear of their commentary being attributed to those individuals; as there are still so few people, it would be clear who it is. That in itself tells us something about the culture in those parts of the organisation."

The panel session was hosted by Bart Michels, chief executive of Kantar Consulting.