Roshni Goyate recently co-founded The Other Box to increase diversity in the creative industry. Read why, and how she intends to make it happen.
I recently came across a piece of creative writing I had done for my A Level English coursework. I remember my teacher being very impressed even with my first draft. The final draft got me the highest mark in the class. I don’t think it’s an accident that I’m a copywriter today.
Yet re-reading that piece of creative writing many years later, I was shocked at 17-year-old me about one major detail: all of the characters, including the first-person narrator, had blue eyes. They were all white. All throughout school, even growing up in north-west London, where ethnic minority people like me are the majority, we had only ever read books and plays by white authors where the main characters were white. It was what I knew fiction to be: never told from my perspective as a brown female. My own story didn’t ever seem relevant, not even at A Level.
Thankfully it hasn’t held me back from achieving my dream to write for a living. Today I get to work with other creative, talented people, telling stories for brands. And I have the privilege of helping others realise the power of their own words at work. I love it.
But what if I were to ask you to think back to the last time you worked with a writer or designer from a minority background? What would your answer be? How many people of colour have you worked with throughout your career? How many could you name in your network?
After a few years of searching in earnest, I’m still struggling to see myself reflected in the story of my industry. From creative teams, to the line-ups of premium-ticketed industry events and judging panels of prestigious awards. People like me, people of colour – and especially women of colour – are invisible.
There are a number of reasons why this is happening, which I won’t go into now. But ultimately when I don’t see myself clearly represented in my industry, the implicit message is this: ‘you might love what you do, but there’s no place for someone like you at the top, so you might as well give up now.’
I refuse to accept that. So I’ve started The Other Box with my friend and colleague Leyya Sattar, to rewrite the story, and show other people from minority backgrounds that their voice and creativity counts for something too. I don’t see why, especially in a city like London, celebrated for its diversity, creative teams shouldn’t reflect the society they belong to.
Through interviews, events and mentorships, we hope to inspire a new generation, and give voice to others in my position, making brilliant work yet struggling to be seen.
This is a conversation for all of us to be part of, not just people of colour. I hope you’ll join us in celebrating diversity, and the positive impact it can have on creativity.
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @_TheOtherBox. I look forward to seeing you at the events we’re planning for the New Year.
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