WHITE men dominate leadership roles in Scotland’s media and cultural industries while women and people of colour are “persistently” underrepresented, research has found. 

While there has been “significant progress” in some sectors, areas such as newspapers, sports bodies, gaming companies and traditional music are skewed in favour of white men. 

A report by the Equal Media & Culture Centre for Scotland (EMCC) for Engender set out the “significant consequences” the continual underrepresentation of women, black and minoritized people has on industries embracing diversity.

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Diversity at the Top: Leadership in Scottish Media & Culture, shared exclusively with the Sunday National ahead of the report’s publication, examined 26 separate key leadership roles and boards in Scotland’s creative industries.

Only three key positions in dance, film, and production had 50% or above representation for white women. Some museums were gender balanced and included representation of both men and women of colour, albeit marginal.

But white men make up 100% of leadership roles as Scotland’s sports editors, CEO’s of all three of Scotland’s broadcasters, and of conductors of National Orchestras, choirs and bands.

The National: Humza Yousaf speaks to the media after being voted the new First Minister at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Humza Yousaf speaks to the media after being voted the new First Minister at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. (Image: PA)

Overall, white men hold the majority or half of leadership positions in 21 key leadership roles across Scotland’s media and culture.

They are 80% of Scotland’s political editors, 76% of editors in chief, hold 70% of positions on newspaper boards, 67% of broadcaster board positions and 57% of director and CEO roles in publishing.

Elsewhere, white men represent 87% of CEOs or directors of animation and gaming companies, 77% of CEO’s of national sports bodies, 71% of CEOs or managing directors in advertising, marketing and PR firms, and 67% of organisers of folk festivals.

And, men and women of colour were significantly underrepresented across all industries in the analysis.

The report found “promising” advances in film and screen sectors, but a “worrisome lack of progress” in others, such as media, sport, gaming, musical directors and traditional and folk organisations.

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Some of the most stark findings were in Scotland’s media, described as “bleak” in the report, where white men take up the majority of leadership roles. Only 20% of political editors and 24% of editors in chief are white women, with people of colour only represented in 8% of newspaper board roles.

Office bearers at the Scottish Newspaper Society, which aims to promote the profile and interests of the newspaper industry, are all white men.

And, the analysis found that of Scotland’s three broadcasters, BBC Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland and STV, none are currently led by women. Overall, 67% of board directors in broadcasting are white men, 25% women, and 8% women of colour.

The National:


“The current constraints, economic and otherwise, under which the Scottish journalism industry is operating are enormously impactful,” Dr Miranda Barty-Taylor (above), project manager of EMCC told the Sunday National.

“Research by EMCC and by Women in Journalism Scotland indicates that those most impacted are women and minoritized people, who are more likely to be freelancers, in terms of lack of training and employment opportunities, career progression, mental health, harassment, and work-life balance.

“It is therefore more important than ever that broadcasters and national newspapers make greater efforts to ensure flexible working policies, targeted training and support are available, with clarity on routes into specialisms and paid development opportunities which enable journalists and broadcasters to progress their careers and stay in the sector long term.”

Barty-Taylor added that the more diverse voices in senior positions means a greater variety of stories told in the Scottish press, which “shapes societal attitudes and public opinion”.

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White women only dominated leadership positions in three sectors - directors or CEO’s of screen and film bodies (78%), CEO or director of dance companies (58%) and head of production (50%). No people of colour were represented in these sectors.

In fact, men and women of colour were underrepresented across the board, only taking up a small percentage of leadership positions in 13 out of the 26 roles analysed.

The highest representations for people of colour in Scotland were as directors of major national or international festivals, where 9% of directors are women of colour and 2% are men of colour, compared to 49% of white men and 40% of white women.

For arts festivals, women of colour represented 6% of directors, compared to 52% of white men and 39% of white women.

The National: Scotland has a number of thriving festivals - but most are led by menScotland has a number of thriving festivals - but most are led by men

Men of colour’s highest representation were as directors or CEO’s of animation or gaming companies at 10%, an industry still dominated by white men (83%) and with very few white women (7%).

“The lack of racial diversity in Scotland’s media and cultural institutions at the highest levels perpetuates the exclusion of perspectives from the global majority,” Barty-Taylor said.

“It reinforces stereotypes and biases and harms Scotland’s reputation as an inclusive, progressive country.

“We urgently need our cultural and media industries to critically self-reflect, set targets for diverse representation at senior staff and board levels and actively recruit people of colour, seeking expert HR guidance where necessary.

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“Initiatives like sponsoring, mentoring and dedicated long-term funded programs are needed, crucially partnering with organizations led by minoritized and marginalised people.”

The report set out that having women and diverse voices as leaders is not just a “matter of representation”, but can have “significant consequences” for organisations to embrace “diversity of thought, inclusive values and combat stereotypes”.

It adds: “The arts, media, and cultural sectors play a vital role in shaping Scottish attitudes and behaviours, forming a cornerstone of primary prevention of violence against women and girls. It is imperative that these sectors reflect the needs of the society they serve.”