I LIKE NETWORKING is an initiative created for women and non-binary people to tackle the lack of diversity in the creative industry
By Isabel Sachs
The UK’s creative and cultural industry is incredible, but also incredibly competitive and full of issues: gender pay gap, lack of diversity, unpaid internships, you name it.
In 2015 I sold a company I had founded in Brazil, working mainly with independent music and theatre. It was at its peak, but I wanted to experience new things and moved to London, determined to learn from an established cultural industry. As one of the creative epicentres in the world, I had naively expected London to be better at all of that.
“The idea is to break the mould of networking” – Isabel Sachs
At that time, I had been working full time for over eight years, but my experience was dismissed by most recruiters because of my country of origin. I was privileged enough to be able to afford a number of unpaid internships to get my foot on the door again but five years later, during a global pandemic, I found myself stranded in the city, not able to visit my family, and without a job.
I dwelled on self-pity for a while. Then more people got fired, theatres were closing for good, the industry was (is) collapsing. On a whim, and with the support of some incredible professionals from all over the world, I LIKE NETWORKING was born: a networking and mentoring initiative devised for women and non-binary people to tackle the lack of diversity in the creative industry.
The idea is to break the mould of networking – having mentors that would share not only their experience but also their contacts, and defy borders and entry barriers in a world that is increasingly lifting them up. I spoke with some of the mentors on the scheme to show you the benefits of joining I LIKE NETWORKING.
One of the first people to jump on this programme without knowing much about me as arts advisor Ifeoma Dike. She explained how she is “a natural networker and connector who has managed to traverse various cultures and travelled beyond familiar borders with the hope of learning and promoting cultural exchange and cultural intelligence.”
“I am personally looking forward to helping mentees build their networking skills and learn how to thrive beyond cultural boundaries and unfamiliar grounds.” – Ifeoma Dike
Dike explains how daunting it can be to work in an industry full of predominantly Caucasian middle-aged men and the unconscious bias people are constantly faced with. She emphasised how hard it is working in an industry where contacts and connections might not be relevant because people in positions of power are often more likely to work with people who look like them.
Through I LIKE NETWORKING, she hopes to “support art professionals who find networking and meeting new people intimidating. I am personally looking forward to helping mentees build their networking skills and learn how to thrive beyond cultural boundaries and unfamiliar grounds. Charisma being the key element.“
Another mentor, Salma Tuqan, Deputy Director at Delfina Foundation spoke to me about how mentorship is one the most grounding companionships you can make during the navigations and transitions of life:
“What’s remarkable,” she says, “is that mentorships are often just as enriching to both the mentor and mentee, as it allows for empathy, mutual understanding, growth, and solidarity. Mentorship builds upon one of the most important, and often unspoken, cornerstones in the cultural sector: relationships. And implicitly, engineers another characteristic which is equally significant for me, which is paying it forward.”
“...mentorships are often just as enriching to both the mentor and mentee, as it allows for empathy, mutual understanding, growth, and solidarity.” – Salma Tuqan
I also spoke with Lisa Johnson, who I met during my latest, sadly short-lived, job, and bonded over our love of theatre and film. She is a force to be reckoned with and an incredible advisor to have on the programme:
“It's so important to me to see initiatives like this run by the people they are intended to benefit. I've been making my way in and around the creative industries for a decade now, so I know how isolating and inaccessible it can feel to those of us who are currently underrepresented. Through I LIKE NETWORKING, women and non-binary people receive quality mentorship, as well as access to a growing network of brilliant industry professionals. It will give them personal insight, more direct access and the chance for better opportunities, which is crucial in helping to narrow the gap to create a more diverse workforce for the creative industries.”
Lastly, events curator Jade Coles, another one of our amazing mentors, wraps it up for us:
“Now more than ever, it's important to have a strong network of folks who can support you in making your next steps, weather that's joining a new business, freelancing or setting up on your own, But finding that network, or community, in the vastness of the city can be a challenge, this is why having a mentor, someone that's been there, seen it, done it can be a real life line.”
The I LIKE NETWORKING applications are open until July 30th and the programme starts in September. Find more information on ilikenetworking.uk.