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Guest post: Reflecting on the National Gathering for Women of Colour in Scotland

In this guest post, gender equality activist and campaigner Anisha Yaseen writes about her experience of attending the National Gathering for Women of Colour in Scotland.

In June 2023 I was fortunate enough to attend a two-day event in Glasgow, organised by Pass The Mic Scotland, which was founded by Talat Yaqoob. Pass the Mic Scotland's mission is to provide opportunities for women of colour to participate in the media industry as experts, commentators and writers. Alongside this, they work to achieve equal representation in a typically white-male dominated industry and policy-influencing space in Scotland.

I cannot emphasise enough how crucial these opportunities are for people, like me, who do not have a starting point and often feel unheard by those in the media industry. As someone who is passionate about campaigning and activism, I found the event both inspiring and exhausting. It is frustrating to see how much harder women, especially women of colour, must work to achieve the same opportunities as our male, white counterparts. Being in a room full of like-minded individuals who share similar experiences was refreshing, but it is equally frustrating that we all share these experiences of being underrepresented and sometimes, misrepresented.

Racism is a pervasive issue that goes far beyond overtly derogatory comments and name-calling, and is deeply ingrained in the very structures of society. It is an unfortunate reality that many women of colour find themselves as the sole representative of their race in meetings and other professional settings, only to have their voices and opinions marginalised.

The media plays a significant role in shaping society’s views and opinions, and it is vital that everyone’s voices are heard. It is essential that women of colour are seen as more than just a diversity checkbox, but instead as individuals with expertise across a range of topics from the economy to education, to the environment. While there has been significant attention given to diversity in the media industry, it is crucial that we move beyond the rhetoric and take tangible steps towards creating a more equitable environment. According to Kaye Nicholson from STV, approaching more women of colour in their area of expertise is a win-win situation. Not only do journalists expand their contacts and find new content, but there is also a better representation of society for their audiences. Ultimately, our goal should be to establish a society that is truly inclusive, and a media sector which tells the stories that represent all of Scotland, engaging a wide range of expertise, regardless of their race or gender.

Some of the discussions over the course of the event included:

  • What media professionals and institutions can learn and do differently.
  • A wide range of people from media were invited and it has been promoted on social media for people to freely register. Yet there was a distinct lack of men in attendance working in and around the media. This was discouraging for many of us and was pointed out many times.
  • The need for diversity and inclusion in media decision-making positions.
  • Experiences of racism and sexism being dismissed.
  • The perpetuation of a deficit model that blames marginalised communities or sees them as lacking in skills. It is crucial to prioritise trust-building with marginalised communities and move towards equality in the media industry and wider policy/political influencing.

As a woman of colour, it is frustrating to feel ignored and marginalised by the media. It’s not okay for the media to represent women of colour without giving them a voice or a chance to share their ideas. Simply including a few people of colour is not enough; their representation must be equal, and their voice heard. It’s important to keep in mind that progress towards inclusivity should never be a reason to become complacent. There is always more work to be done to ensure that women of colour are given a platform to share their ideas and have their voices heard. While it’s great to see progress towards inclusivity, it should be the norm, rather than being something so rare it still needs to be celebrated.

Pass the Mic a fantastic example of a platform that gives women of colour an opportunity to express themselves, to build skills, but importantly, to push for progress within media and beyond. Overall, attending the Pass the Mic event was an invaluable experience that reinforced the importance of equal representation in the media industry. It is crucial that we continue to support organisations like Pass the Mic and work towards creating a more inclusive society in which everyone can see themselves.

About the blog author: Anisha Yaseen is a dedicated advocate for Gender Equality and a passionate champion against gender-based violence. Her unwavering commitment to eradicating these issues has lead to impactful initiatives, fostering positive change and inspiring others to join the cause.

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