In an industry that is dominated by white male voices, women of colour struggle to be heard. Despite numerous initiatives put in place to tackle inequality in media workplaces, there is little evidence of progress.

The power structures that exist in mainstream media are centuries old, they are deeply engrained and institutionalised. Which calls into question, how can the imbalance in British journalism realistically be countered?

Frustrated by the lack of progress concerning the representation of women of colour in the mainstream media, online magazine gal-dem was set up to create a space of their own.

“if the door isn’t going to open for you, then you have to create your own door”
Antonia Odunlami, music editor at gal-dem

Gal-dem is run, written and controlled by creative young women of colour. Since its launch in September 2015, it has gained over 50 talented contributors and has a rapidly growing fan base.

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Gal-dem contributors Ifama, Paula and Antonia speaking at skin-deep event

Liv Little, the editor in chief, came up with the idea to make the magazine about this time last year. Her vision was born out of her frustration towards the lack of diversity within her curriculum at university.

“if we’re not going to be included in the story that the mainstream media wants to tell, then were going to have to provide an alternative”
Paula Akpan, gal-dem contributor 

Gal-dem’s Interlude Series gives a platform to perspectives that are often silenced, examining and challenging the norm whilst asking, at times, uncomfortable questions. Most importantly the series acts as a way to generate conversation between different communities. For some, the subjects discussed may have been disregarded or never even noticed.

“The only way we’re going to address the imbalance is by having these difficult conversations.”
Daisy Ifama, Author at gal-dem

Using an abundance of creative content, the collective are breaking down the narrow stereotype that is often attributed to women of colour. As discussed by feminist writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the problem with stereotypes is not necessarily that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.

Stereotypes can have harmful psychological consequences for the many people who feel they fall outside of the homogeneous group they are boxed into.

Without relatable figures and adequate representation, young women often feel compelled to distance themselves from their racial identity. In the video below, Laura describes the internal struggle she faced growing up.

Video: Laura talks about her struggle. Music credit: Karriem Riggins- Rhodes Ahead


Gal-dem
exists to be critical of the mainstream media, not necessarily to chase it, that said, it could be the answer to realistically addressing the industry’s imbalance from the bottom up. Award winning former BBC correspondent and diversity expert, Barnie Choudhury, spent 4 years investigating the BBC’s diversity problem. Drawing on success stories in America, he believes that initially small media platforms like gal-dem potentially hold the key to bringing diversity into the mainstream.

Audio: Diversity expert Barnie Choudhury says change is possible

The British journalism industry is:

  • 94% white
  • 86% university-educated
  • 55% male

Women remain underpaid and under-promoted, while almost all ethnic groups and religions are significantly under-represented.

  • 0.4% of British journalists are Muslim and only 0.2% are black.
  • Nearly 5% of the UK population is Muslim and 3% is black.

(According to a survey of 700 news professionals conducted by City University London)

Women of colour are 4 times more likely to face discrimination in the journalism industry than their white male colleagues.

(According to the NCTJ’s Journalists at Work survey)