The past year has seen many industries reckon with their shortcomings when it comes to addressing race and racism.
Continued demands for justice—and for better representation in all aspects of culture, including entertainment—has galvanized many kids media companies to examine their inadequacies and invest real time and effort into creating lasting change. Broadcasters, producers and toymakers have worked over the last 12 months to make improvements to their diversity and inclusion efforts on screen, behind the scenes and on shelves in order to more effectively serve all families.
Wrapping up our Inclusion industry series, editor and content director Megan Haynes shares an update on Kidscreen’s Diversity Mission, and looks at what’s next.
What does it mean to be an ally? It’s a question I’ve asked on a personal and professional level this past year.
In 2020, we introduced a Best Inclusivity category to the Kidscreen Awards, and invited the inaugural jury to help us shape the judging criteria. They came up with a nine-point metric for assessing entries, and it’s a great starting point for conversations about being an ally.
1. Does the entry push the culture forward?
2. Is it innovative? Have we seen this before?
3. Can every kid see themselves on screen?
4. Is there equal representation both on screen and behind the scenes?
5. Is there authenticity in the content? Are characters multi-dimensional or tokenistic?
6. Who does the program honor and acknowledge?
7. Is there an expansion of diversity? Are the identities of the characters intersectional?
8. Does it foster empathy and forge a better understanding of the characters?
9. Does the program welcome everyone?
I encourage all content creators to think about their work through this lens of allyship. And the last point, in particular, really resonates with me. Does everyone feel welcome?
It’s our job at Kidscreen to cover the industry’s news, and to do so objectively. But it’s also important to remember that what we cover and how we cover it shapes the news.
If we don’t interview Black creators, we perpetuate the misconception that there aren’t any in the kids space. When Indigenous, Middle Eastern or Asian projects aren’t included in our Cool New Shows feature, we deny producers a platform for finding partners.
Last year, we announced that as part of a broader diversity and inclusion effort we would aim to include more diverse voices, with the goal of ensuring that 42% of all of our speakers and interviewees be Black, Indigenous or people of color by 2023.
In our first year, we wanted to get to 22%, effectively doubling the number of BIPOC speakers/interviewees. We were mostly successful—20% of people we interviewed and 28% of speakers at Kidscreen Summit were BIPOC—so we achieved our goal at 24% overall. But we know we need to improve.
For one thing, we struggled with how to count inclusivity. It’s murky territory to make assumptions about ethnicity or race, and we’re working to address that for 2021/2022.
The words we use will continue to evolve. As an acronym, BIPOC is still used, but it was rightly pointed out that everyone has a very different lived experience and faces unique issues in their communities. We can’t lump everyone into “white” and “other,” so we’re going to endeavor to be specific whenever possible.
We also found it difficult to find diverse voices in some sectors of the industry (looking at you, distributors!), and there was occasionally some pushback when we said no to white speakers in favor of their BIPOC peers.
And we were challenged by our mandate to not relegate speakers and interviewees to only covering topics of inclusion and diversity. It was a double-edged sword—we increased our coverage of the issues and inevitably reached out to more BIPOC folks to talk about them. But we need to find a better balance.
For next year, we want you to ask yourself what it means to be an ally. Inclusive shows are great, and diversifying your top ranks is fantastic, but now let’s take things even further.
It may mean declining a panel discussion invitation to make way for one of your BIPOC peers, or recommending them when they might not have made the shortlist. Maybe it means reserving a percentage of your pitch meetings for new producers of color. It definitely means committing real time and effort to delivering on the promises you’ve made.
All kids deserve to feel welcome, and that starts with all of us. We have a role to play in making the kids entertainment industry an inclusive ecosystem. It’s time to be an ally.
That wraps up our four-part series focusing on the Inclusion industry. But we’re going to continue focusing on representing the industry’s diversity in our publications and brand initiatives.