“Diversity for diversity’s sake”: Avoiding tokenism and embracing authenticity on your podcast
By Eyula Koroma
23rd June 2021
Whether it is a giant “Black Lives Matter” message plastered all over the pavement or putting a Black woman centre stage on a dating reality show that was not built for her, these mediocre, scrambled efforts don’t lead to any actionable change. So, what does change look like? How does the world open doors for all communities to thrive?
The podcasting industry can’t solve all the societal problems of the world. Still, it can start to avoid tokenistic efforts to make podcasts genuinely diverse and inclusive by embracing authentic representation in the stories that it tells.
I sat down with Rachel Allison, a PR & Comms Specialist and founder of an agency called Axe and Saw. As one of this year’s British Podcast Awards’ judges, it was only right we discussed how podcast hosts could avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes across race and disability in their guests and topics.
Rachel urges hosts to think beyond the status quo to create content that engages all listeners. “Do you mainly have white men discussing sports? Do you mainly have guests who discuss ‘juggling the home life with a career’ – female in her late 30s… if so, time to change it up.”
Last year, Spotify conducted a study that found 54% of women of colour consider white female voices that are treated as more valuable than theirs to be the biggest hindrance for them to break into the podcast industry. Diversity & Inclusion Activist Rachel Allison calls for podcast hosts to close this gap by re-thinking their content to unlock and engage more audiences. “Different storytellers who provide interesting stories will increase your engagement with listeners because you’ll be giving them information, they don’t necessary have elsewhere.”
Representation from different communities is vital, but the change doesn’t stop there. I discussed how important it is for guests to touch upon the everyday practices with Joy Addo, a Black woman who is visually impaired, that represents other Black women from disabled communities in her podcast, Joy’s World. “As people with disabilities, we’re not all fragile. We’re not all sensitive.” Highlighting everyday lived-in experiences can contribute to dismantling pre-conceived ideas of how society views disability.
Joy is naturally tearing singlets of everyone that dares to reduce these communities to a singular identity. From discussing disclosing disabilities on dating profiles to how society desexualises people from disabled communities, “When people think of disability, they tend to see the things we can’t do, and not see the things we can do.” Joy educates her listeners on how she navigates her disability, being Black and a mother one episode at a time.
Creating an inclusive podcast goes beyond gender and race. It also includes creating a space that is accessible for the disabled communities. Invite guests from diverse communities who are fun and relatable, so your audience can make a deep, meaningful connection to each episode. Share stories on your podcast that allow intersectionality to flourish. Above all, remember that anyone can listen to your podcast, so the very least you could do is make it accessible for everyone.
About Eyula Koroma
Eyula sees podcasts as an auditory escape route from the events and emotions life can often bring. She especially loves to hear hosts share their perspective or recollection of a film or series she has seen or heard. Eyula puts her thoughts into words through the lens of the media, fashion, film and healthcare, and a thought-piece of hers, ‘How medical racism has informed vaccine hesitancy’, was selected for PR Academy’s Best PR Blogs in 2021.