Words: Martin Corke
Let’s face it, the media industry could accurately be described as a young person’s game. Just last week I was asked what I intend to do in my retirement. Whilst not at all offended, I suddenly realised that at the tender age of 47, I had passed through that invisible gateway and was now part of the minority of people working in media over the age of 45 – never mind 50 plus.
This thought doesn’t worry me however. I see personal and professional experience as an abundant strength, in myself and others. But whilst I think most people would agree that experience matters, contrary industry stats and reports are disconcerting. For example, apparently just 6% of people in media are over 50. That’s massively out of sync with the working UK population. I guess it is not a massive surprise that in an industry-wide survey conducted by Campaign and MEC almost 80% of respondents agreed that the industry comes across as ageist.
“the media industry certainly needs the experience of older individuals who are able to act inclusively as mentors and role models”
It is true that as a white, middle-class man, I have many privileges. I am also now conscious of my own unconscious biases thanks to Clear Channel’s Fairness programme and the proactive efforts of other groups like BALANCE. Until now however, I have never considered whether I might be unconsciously ageist. That now feels a little ironic.
Anyhow, the media industry certainly needs the experience of older individuals who are able to act inclusively as mentors and role models for the new, and hopefully far more diverse generation of media professionals.
Personally, I plan to work in media until I retire in my 60s. I reckon I’m about 60% of my way there. If I succeed in this goal, I may be a statistical trendsetter. I am excited about mentoring currently unborn future colleagues – what an enlightening if not slightly intimidating thought.
“I recognise that action speaks louder than words and I believe it is critical to lead by example”
I do have a personal plan of sorts:
- Firstly, I am going to challenge and adjust any unconscious or unintentional ageism in myself and others. It happens. Experience tells me a pragmatic approach might be most effective. This cannot be an individual or isolated project, it also needs to be placed within the wider context of championing diversity and inclusion.
- Secondly, from a personal mind-set perspective, I am going to remain inquisitive, ambitious, energetic and open-minded. I want to help others, more than ever. I recognise that action speaks louder than words and I believe it is critical to lead by example. After all, I love what I do and I appreciate how massively fortunate I am.
- Thirdly, I am going to challenge myself to accumulate more knowledge and new experiences, while tackling my own biases along the way. I’m definitely going to read more business journalism (that famous Economist billboard springs to mind) and listen harder to those both younger and older than I. It helps having two sons aged 9 and 11 and working within an incredibly talented, diverse and vocal marketing team.
- Finally, I accept that I need to make more effort with my physical and mental health. I had a mini-scare recently so it is definitely time to drink less alcohol, eat better, get more exercise and get to bed earlier. I have realised that it’s not just about squeezing into slim fitting jeans (just), while keeping up the pace. It is really important to talk too, especially as a bloke. Movember’s work in this area really inspires me.
It’s all simple stuff really, and at the end of the day, we are all getting older and more experienced. Perhaps we can help each other to get wiser too and extend many more media careers to the benefit of current and future employees.
Martin Corke is Marketing Director at Clear Channel UK