I will start this blog with a few comments that I usually would not worry about including, but on this occasion feel are very relevant and people should be aware of. First of all, this is an opinion piece of sorts, this blog post and any in the future that are tagged as a 'Leadership Message' are generally going to be looking at topics that are of interest to us beyond that of what we do as a business. While I personally believe in what I'm writing here, and on this occasion these are the values that ATLAS as a business have, I cannot and will not speak for my staff who may not choose to share these views, after all we all are entitled to our own opinions and I respect that what we believe is what makes us unique as individuals.
Secondly I will warn that this blog may not be suitable for all audiences. It will touch on a number of difficult topics, and some readers may not wish to continue. It may also not be suitable for younger audiences for this reason as well. Please exercise your own sensible judgement before proceeding.
The BLM Movement
On June 1st 2020, at the start of Pride month I felt the need to write what proved to be a very difficult tweet in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. It was not difficult to write because I had something to argue about, but it was difficult to write because I was disappointed in myself, and the human race as a whole that I, and many many others had been put in a position where they needed to once again show solidarity against racism.
I will also address, for anyone who wishes to point out that racism is not just towards those people of colour, but can also be against white people, I absolutely appreciate that and I would urge people who are making that argument to read the statement that I posted, the key part being:
Here at ATLAS, We believe all life should be respected, we are all human, and we all live on this planet together.
I personally believe that we are all just human beings, and the amount of pigment in someones skin, the genital they have or who they wish to have romantic or sexual relations with should make any difference to how you treat that person. It baffles me that people still continue to get themselves so worked up about the differences between people, and personally I think that is what will hold us back as a species.
I've touched on it in the BLM Post, but I feel this also warrants it's own section. In addition to the ongoing issues around racism that have been re-ignited in recent weeks, there continues to be abuse, attacks and wider discrimination towards those who are 'Different' or 'Not Normal'.
I am personally a supporter of Pride and embracing what makes people different. I don't generally attend rallies or show my support in particularly public ways, and that is just how I am as a person, it's not in my nature, however as someone who relatively recently in the grand schemes of my life, have found that they are bisexual, pride is important to me personally 'For me', as well as to be supportive to everyone else who I strongly believe should have the same respect as everyone else.
I've been disappointed recently to read that influencers and content creators have had interactions with agencies and brands whom reportedly paid male content creators up to ten times that of the female creators, and in some cases tried to avoid paying those female creators at all. This is one example of the every day sexism that has no place in today's society but a handful of brands and individuals still feel acceptable.
So you've made a statement, what are you going to do about it?
This is the question I'm sure you're all asking reading this, and I've been asking myself this a lot recently.
Earlier today I had the pleasure to run through the ATLAS strategic vision and report back to the team how far we had come and where we see ourselves going over the next 6 months, it was an absolute privilege to be able to report how far we've come, but I think we have a long way to go as an organisation.
If you've looked at our Staff Team recently, you'll have noticed that our entire team is currently made up of young white men, and that it's not a very diverse team in that regard. I feel it only fair to address that here, because I am a firm believe in practicing what you preach, and right now we're not doing that.
As of writing this post, ATLAS is still very small, and the majority of our 'Staff' actually work with me because we are close friends and have been for many years, and have share this vision of what ATLAS could become. I'm unfortunately not currently in a position to hire full time staff (Or any staff for that matter), and that's why our current team to the eye would not look particularly diverse.
While there is a limited amount we can do today, I will commit to you here that ATLAS will always hire it's new talent based on who makes up the following criteria:
- Which candidate is best matched for the job we've advertised for.
- Which candidate do we feel will fit in with the vision and culture that ATLAS has.
- Which candidate feels that ATLAS is the right career choice for them.
For me, when we come to hiring new staff I want the company to attract and ultimately hire the best of the best, and for us to have a range of personalities and technical skills that make up the team. I am a firm believer that to encourage a culture where you only hire specific groups of people (For example those with a degree) will shape your company in ways you can't even imagine, and often for the worse.
We are always looking for new talent, and if you think that you'd like to be involved in what ATLAS is doing, please do go ahead and Contact Us. I want to grow this team in a way that gives us the best possible team to do our work.
The other area I touched on earlier was around brands and agencies who are reported to be under-paying influencers because of their sexuality or another factor. ATLAS has a zero tolerance on discrimination, and I am personally committed to ensuring that where there is actual evidence to prove this, we will not work with such brands going forward. We take pride in the work we do and who we work with, and if the companies and teams we work with don't share the same basic values of what we feel is common human decency, we would rather not do our business with them.
Another area that is difficult to write about and for many difficult to read, but another area that I personally feel we need to be able to talk about and address in an open format without it being considered weird.
There have been a lot of very brave people speaking up again recently about the abuse that they have unfortunately suffered, and let me first start off by sharing my unwavering support for all of those who have come forward about abuse that they have faced, it's not an easy thing to do and it often takes quite a long time to be comfortable enough to talk about it.
I am not going to go into any specific cases here, I'm certainly not qualified to act as judge jury and executioner, and have not been following a lot of these cases in enough detail to really make an actual educated decision anyway, and if all of that wasn't enough I would rather not spend the next 6 months getting sued by people for mis-reporting what my understanding or opinion may be!
This is a difficult topic generally. Sexual Assault is often linked to other formats of abuse, and as such it can be very hard to prove without reasonable doubt (Generally required for a criminal case), it often means that it comes down to one of the parties having recorded it (Which often ends up complicating the charges as that in it's self I believe can be a crime), or it comes down to a matter of 'Who do you believe', which can be a really difficult place to be.
Unfortunately there are often people who will suffer in silence their entire lives, there are people who have lost their lives due to the pain that they have felt after this abuse and there are people who are still living in these circumstances. My thoughts are with all those who are currently still undergoing this abuse or who we have unfortunately lost before their time as a result of such awful abuse.
Fortunately however in recent years movements like #meetoo have helped to 'Normalise' the reporting of this abuse, and while in many cases I unfortunately know that true justice is never served. I personally believe that in speaking out against this abuse is always the right thing to do, and while it may not be able to give you the justice that you rightfully deserve, you speaking out might just encourage someone else to do the same and ultimately may allow them to get the closure and potentially justice that they also deserve.
The unfortunate counter argument is there have been frankly despicable cases where people have claimed that they have been abused, and that's proven not to be the case, or that they were in fact the abuser. It is truly upsetting that people are using this overwhelmingly positive movement in a mission to discredit innocent people.
Well, you've talked about it so what are you going to do about it?
Another question that I'm sure you are asking as you read this, and something that's been playing on my mind extensively over the last couple of days.
This topic is far more difficult, and it's because often there are the troubles that I mentioned earlier, it's a lot harder for us to take any decisive action with a broad stroke.
I will however perhaps clarify an earlier point, while we believe in equality and take pride in having a diverse workforce, those individuals who have committed sexual assault will not be welcome at ATLAS, and I will give you my word here and now that we will not bring someone who has committed such acts on to our team, nor will we work with them on projects. It simply goes against the basic values we have as a company.
Closing Remarks & COVID-19
If you've made it through this far, thank you. This again has been a difficult blog to write, and I'm sure there will be holes in it which I've not covered, however that's part of the reason for this new format, for it to be a way for me to convey to you what my genuine thoughts are, and for it to be an Un-filtered approach.
I will wrap this up with a final thought, and something that has troubled me a lot in the recent weeks.
With COVID-19 at least in the UK now getting to the point where we are starting to ease restrictions, it is heartbreaking to see so many people, including many who I would call friends or close friends either stretching the guidance, or blatantly ignoring it. I've lost the ability to work in my office, to meet with family and a lot of friends, all in the name of shielding as best we as a family can, as that was what the advice we had been issues by the government. Now that the restrictions for us start to ease, we have to now be careful with who we do see, and I'm now having to actively avoid some people who before this I haven't seen for many months as a result of their own reckless behaviour so as to minimise my risk, and the risk then to my family.
If you are one of the people who are going out to parties / raves, to 'Speakeasies', meeting with loads of other people in your own home, taking different friends every day on long road trips, or breaking the guidance in any other way, know that your actions prevent me from seeing you, and very possibly will prevent me from seeing you for some time. Please take this seriously, I don't want to die from a virus because you couldn't be bothered to stay at home or follow the guidance.