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How to embed diversity and inclusion in your creative start-up, with Ama Afrifa-Tchie

Student working on design prototype with textiles
  • Written byAnnika Loebig
  • Published date 17 June 2021
Student working on design prototype with textiles
Anabel Pepecucu Saelo, BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Knit, London College of Fashion, UAL | Photography: Alys Tomlinson.

As part of a series of industry events for UAL students and graduates, the Graduate Incubation Programme in collaboration with the StART Entrepreneurship Programme recently hosted a talk on diversity and inclusion led by Ama Afrifa-Tchie, who shared her insights into how entrepreneurs can develop more inclusive and supportive work cultures in their start-ups.

If you’re thinking about launching your own creative venture, check out these tips to learn more about how you can create positive employee experiences as an entrepreneur and embed inclusive practices from early stages in your business.

Creating an inclusive culture doesn’t happen by chance. You have to be intentional by design and proactive in unlearning biases, and asking yourself: "Am I being equitable?"

— Ama Afrifa-Tchie
Practice inclusivity before, during and after recruitment 

Although research has shown you’re more likely to outperform your competitors if you have a diverse team, diversity in itself means nothing without an inclusive workplace culture. According to Ama, inclusion starts right at the beginning of an employee’s life cycle.

Businesses need to ensure their hiring processes are accessible, for example, making making sure a job ad is free of jargon and it describes the competencies and skills required in a clear way. Once someone is in place, it's also important to create a healthy workplace culture so that you can retain your staff and reward them through progression opportunities, recognition and work benefits.

Creating a positive workplace culture doesn’t just make others want to work with you, it also makes them want to stay.

Partner with others that can talk to underrepresented communities about your job opportunities 

To increase your chances of hiring diverse staff, Ama recommends sending your job ads directly to platforms where you can reach underrepresented communities. Also, make it explicit in your ad that you welcome applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds.

Creative entrepreneurs also need to start considering class, location and social mobility as key factors to promote diversity in their teams. A year of remote working has proven that many jobs can be done from home. This is an opportunity for London-based employers, for example, to offer more roles that be done remotely or in a hybrid-mode, lifting the barriers for those living in communities outside the capital.

If you’re still unsure whether you’re doing everything you can to employ a diverse team, Ama suggests you should analyse at what stage specific groups fall through the application process. Is the design of the job ad inclusive? Are applicants aware of your willingness to make adjustments for their needs? If you can, have at least two people involved in shortlisting applicants, so you can challenge and discuss your decisions to mitigate biases when hiring new employees.

Challenge your biases 

When it comes to biases, you’re never done learning.

While employers may be explicitly unbiased, Ama reminds us there are studies showing how unconscious biases can have an impact on how we treat our staff without realising. You can counteract this by frequently checking yourself as an employer, engaging proactively with your team and being open to suggestions on how you can improve your workplace culture and practices.

What about if we're working from home?

As some may return to the offices and others remain working from home, creating inclusive work environments can become particularly challenging as we enter a post-pandemic world of hybrid working, but it will be more important than ever.

On the topic on how start-ups can create positive work cultures while being remote, Ama recommends scheduling activities to bring employees together, but without making social meetups mandatory, whether they're online or remote. Also, make sure you're offering regular wellbeing check-ins.

Find out more