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Meet the woman who's on a mission to make the media industry more diverse

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Joanna Abeyie – an award-winning business leader, diversity recruiter, TV and radio broadcaster, social campaigner, and one among many to make it onto Broadcast magazine’s hotshots of 2016 – is on top of her game, at just the age of 29.

Not only has Joanna achieved all of the above, but she founded an employment charity during her time at university at just the age of 19, and is Managing Director of creative and media recruitment industry recruiter Hyden which specialises in diverse talent. Her mission? To increase diversity across the media and creative sectors.

Joanna's mantra is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you have the skills, talent and ability to apply for a job you’re after, you are just as important as any other applicant - whatever your race, gender, disability, background or environment.

Joanna noticed a gap in diversity and ethnic growth during her first placement, at a magazine publisher at the age of 17. She says that “even though they were (and still are) really supportive and encouraging" she "was the only individual from a certain class and ethnicity back then - there wasn’t even representation in LGBTQ communities.”

She continues: “There hasn’t been a massive change since then. I wouldn’t knock the development of the industry, we have a lot to be proud of, it’s just that the process has been slow.

“I believe that no-one should have to fall off at a certain salary level, and my diverse recruitment company has managed to put over 3,000 people into work. I believe in the importance of diversity.”

Hyden, formerly known as Shine Media, aims to represent individuals that can influence the culture of the whole business.

She says: “Hyden is for senior talent. It helps recruit anyone not just BAME - for example, getting highly experienced females into leadership roles, taking care of people as they go into new roles, forming lasting work relationships. We will go out to help people to drive innovation.

“Our approach is to encourage companies to be inclusive – sometimes they (candidates) need support in flourishing in their new roles so we have created onboarding programmes with the business to help the new joiners hit the ground running, but we help them. People we work with could have an ethnic minority background, disabled or be homosexual/bisexual.” 

Having placed 3,000 applicants put into employment is impressive - so, how has Joanna acheived this level of success? 

I think I just really care!" she says. "I go above and beyond to stay in touch with my applicants. I don’t really judge anyone – I’ve been fortunate to be with people who help develop others.

"My own home upbringing helps a lot - my parents went through challenges so I’ve always been very compassionate.

She adds: “Being classed as disabled should not mean being discriminated against in a job.”

Diverse backgrounds have come to the forefront of the public conversation recently, especially via social media. Grime artist Stormzy has released an album that highlights the mental health issues that surround growing up – it's something to that Joanna, growing up in the same area as Stormzy, can strongly relate.

Working in both the television and radio industry, has she noticed a gap in representation of diverse cultures?

“TV is trying to be more diverse," she says. "However, when I was a judge for the audio production awards, I couldn’t believe that in a room of approximately 200 people, there were only two ethnic individuals up for nominations in the BFI.

"Radio can’t get away with the lack of diverse culture. They think that, because visual content isn’t always required, they can get away with it - but they can’t.”

From the perspective of working in the television industry and producing educational and informative pieces, Joanna is clear that there is educational and informative content out there - but because of the domination of social media and the proliferance of reality TV, the younger generation may miss it.

“I realise there are loads of documentaries now that educate people," she says "(but) young people don’t usually see this as they’re often on social media.

So what’s next for Joanna?

“I want to do so much more! I can’t wait to see myself and Hyden place the next generation of CEOs from a diverse background.

"I’ve currently got the process of a mentoring programme in the works for people at different levels in their career, and if I could get in touch with an MP, that would be great – it would revolutionise my industry.”

The media industry is often depicted as a “dog-eat-dog” world, so as someone who can carry copious amounts of achievements, awards and an incredible motivation, what advice would she give to students who want to getinto the creative or media industries?

“Ideas are going to be your currency," she says, "if you have evidence to do it and the ability to show it. Sell that, and your innovation will also be relevant. Show off your idea, make an employer see you as someone they value, and trade with them.”

Sounds like great advice to us. 

Find out more about Hyden here.

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