Diversity is a buzzword | Chloë Downes, SHFT Agency
Culture & Ethics

Diversity is a buzzword | Chloë Downes, SHFT Agency

Shannice Baynes
Shannice Baynes

In October we sat down with Chloë Downes, Founder of full-service talent management agency SHFT, to discuss the challenges that Black Creators face and how the Influencer Space can become more inclusive.

How are SHFT agency driving change?

SHFT was created out of frustration from Chloë’s previous experience and observation of how talent agencies were working from a tick-box perspective that may seem diverse from the outset, yet internally the team majorly represented middle-class white workers. 

Although the current talent is majority Black Creators, the company’s mission is to not specifically look to represent Creators only from minority backgrounds but to represent Creators who provide value to their audience, with the content that they create.

What are some problems you’ve encountered at SHFT, or the industry as a whole?

Chloe highlights that the main issue starts with the hiring process.

A study based on ethnic backgrounds within the advertising industry states that only 18.5% of people in 2021 were from a non-white background and a similar spit with 80% of people in the marketing industry being middle class. There are many barriers for people of colour and people from a working-class background to enter the industry. This can have a direct impact when brands present campaign ideas that show a lack of knowledge of the audience they are trying to reach, such as natural hair campaigns. By having a range of experiences in the room, you can create inclusive content.  

The lack of diversity internally can also affect Creator fees. There is pay gap disparity between Black and white creators and Chloë says this is due to Black Creators being made to feel lucky to be considered for any brand deal, and as a result they can often accept lower fees. To ensure fair Creator selection processes and fees, brands must work to appreciate engagement rates and added value.

Chloë noted that many Creators are afraid to negotiate fees and thus need further education on reasons to push back and tips for negotiating. SHFT created their own resource bank of informative videos to empower creators and help them with future opportunities.

Has this affected you personally? 

Chloë shares how she has encountered stereotypes in her daily working life. 

“No one knows what colour I am through an email, but on a phone call, they can hear I am from South London and they can tell I am black from my accent and there is a shift in the language that they use”

She also describes how in meetings, the people in the room often disregard her and are quick to assume that her white male colleague is the founder of SHFT. 

During the black lives matter movement in a previous role, she also felt an overwhelming expectation to give her opinion and advice. This was a reminder that black people are only asked to do this work during challenging times, but they are not included at the table for important conversations.

How can Brands and Agencies do better?

A key takeaway from this conversation is that diversity is more than just a buzzword. Chloe advises that it is everyone's responsibility to educate themselves and ask questions to bring change and create an inclusive industry.

Watch the full video in detail here.

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