Viewpoint: AIM's Paul Pacifico on the diversity agenda

Viewpoint: AIM's Paul Pacifico on the diversity agenda

The Association Of Independent Music recently announced a partnership with leading LGBT equality charity Stonewall. AIM CEO Paul Pacifico explains why he’s committed to being an ‘ally’ in the workplace…

When AIM announced its partnership with Stonewall, some people immediately dismissed it as AIM just being ‘a bit worthy’. So I wanted to explain why becoming a Diversity Champion is beyond simple virtue signalling for AIM and why I personally feel compelled to act on this issue.

AIM is known to champion socially-aware and responsible behaviour, but make no mistake, all of our initiatives are directly linked to our core mission to support and empower entrepreneurs in music. As with all things, we want to ensure that any action taken by AIM is practical, useful and effective – both for our member businesses and for their wider stakeholders. AIM’s work has to be of value to the community from both a social and a business point of view.

In her keynote address to our AGM, Stonewall’s executive director of campaigns and strategy, Rachel Stein, set out the practical benefits that come from fostering an inclusive and diverse environment in the workplace. Helping ensure that the workforce feel free to be themselves drives a number of key performance factors such as engagement and innovation, which in turn enables greater productivity.

The principle also extends to the recruitment of diverse talent. The fact that nearly half of young people between the ages of 18-24 see themselves as something other than totally heterosexual underlines the importance of adapting with the times to remain relevant for the newest entrants into the workforce. As a Diversity Champion, we will encourage our members to consider diversity in their recruitment and inclusivity in their culture.

Over time, there has been a welcome increase in awareness of the importance of diversity to the music industry. Some initiatives, such as the PRS Foundation-led Keychange Pledge and Manifesto, are well-conceived and effective. UK Music and SheSaidSo are also positive examples. Others are well-intentioned but unlikely to result in progress, and some may even be counter-productive. The fact that, according to Stonewall’s research, 35% of LGBT employees hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at work tells us we have a long way to go.

Diversity for diversity’s sake is not a good enough reason for us to act. It fundamentally misses the value diversity and inclusion bring to the table. It would be investment, but with no return.

We are proud of the fact that the independent sector is made up of companies that are largely owner-operated and therefore free to express their own character and culture as they wish. We take it for granted sometimes that our community is stronger together than individually, but it is important to challenge ourselves and ask the question: ‘Why?’

The answer includes obvious practical elements such as collective bargaining power, but also the vast spectrum of ideas we hear from our members. We learn from the smallest, newest members who bring fresh thinking and new approaches as much as we do from the established practices of our biggest players.

Over nearly 20 years of existence, AIM’s community of members has grown significantly and deliberately sought to diversify. We cannot speak for the independent music community with credibility if we are not representative of the broadest possible range of people and musical styles out there. Everyone trying to build a business in music is welcome at AIM.

However, we are not truly representing a diverse range of members if we do not empower them to speak up and participate in the debates and direction of AIM. This takes work and needs commitment, but in our experience that commitment pays off.

Inclusivity is part of AIM’s DNA. As such, everyone, regardless of business size, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, neuro-diversity or background should feel welcome and included.

We have to acknowledge that there is little point in having workplaces that seem to have a good gender balance, BAME or LGBT representation on paper, if those employees still don’t feel welcome or empowered. Until everyone feels included and enabled, we are in danger of ‘ticking the diversity box’ without reaping the rewards that inclusion has to offer us.

Building on the work AIM has done in the area of women in music, I am determined to challenge our own culture in the workplace. I am grateful for the number of times in my life that I have been stopped in my tracks by a comment from someone who identified as ‘outside the norm’, which has helped me enormously and saved me from the limits of my own perspective.

For me, Stonewall’s knowledge, expertise and insights will help AIM get further, faster and better towards true inclusivity, all of which means our community stands to gain most from the incredible richness of knowledge and expertise from those outside the mainstream.

After all, those are surely some of the founding principles on which the independent sector is built.

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