Six things we learnt from the We Are Black Journos X Marie Claire event

Discussing what diversity and inclusion really looks like in the publishing industry

we are black journos x marie claire uk
(Image credit: Akeem Graham)

To celebrate Black History Month, Marie Claire UK has been discussing the ways to create a more inclusive workplace and "how to be an anti-racist ally for the long term". But in keeping with this year's theme, we wanted to do more than just use words; we wanted to take action.

We joined forces with We Are Black Journos for an empowering event to focus on what diversity and inclusion really looks like in the publishing industry. 

The aim was to inspire up-and-coming black writers, journalists and media professionals to pursue careers in the industry and see journalism as a career where they could thrive in 2022 and beyond. 

The event - packed with insight and inspiration - was hosted at the Marie Claire offices and supported by the Future UK Black Network, organised by Dami Abajingin, Marie Claire's Account Manager and co-chair of the network.

Of course, it also offered an opportunity to network and swap career tips while enjoying Champagne and delicious canapes - saltfish fritters and Jerk chicken sliders from the wonderful guys at Ayanna's London.

ICYMI, here's everything you need to know about the event, from our kickass panel and empowering takeaways to a sneak peek at the goody bags...

we are black journos x marie claire

(Image credit: Akeem Graham)

The Panel

Journalist and founder of We Are Black Journos, Hannah Ajala, hosted the event and filled the room with her radiant energy. The topics of discussion focused on all things writing and publishing, with tips and tricks from some of the very best in the industry. 

The panel included our very own Marie Claire UK Editor-in-Chief Andrea Thompson, Ade Onibada from Buzzfeed and Yolanthe Fawehinmi from The Telegraph. 

we are black journos x marie claire

(Image credit: Akeem Graham)

Top six takeaways from the evening

Opening the discussion, Hannah and Andrea discussed the importance of keeping the conversation going about race and unconscious bias, while Andrea recalled what the media industry was like when she first started. 

"When I broke into the industry, there was a distinct lack of role models," Andrea recalled. "There weren't people that look like me, and that was quite off-putting."

She continued: "In those sort of environments, you can experience casual racism. And I think that when you are beginning in your career, that just gives you a sense that you don't belong there. So you're not always being yourself."

"If you feel like you're having to be someone else, make yourself small and assimilate, how can you be your true self and really excel?" 

"It starts with these conversations and the power of collaboration," Hannah continued as she introduced Ade Onibada and Yolanthe Fawehinmi into the discussion. 

Together, the panel went on to discuss paving a successful career, putting yourself out there and "leaning into what makes you unique".

we are black journos x marie claire uk

(Image credit: Akeem Graham)

1. Don't just rely on one email

Hannah's top tip: three emails is the golden number if you're pitching an idea to a title.

"It's all about how you put yourself out there, and I know it can feel a bit cringey but honestly don't just rely on one email to get an immediate response," she explained.

"There are people that get thousands of emails coming through. My rule is always follow up two times in total. So it'll be a total of three emails over the space of a month. And if you don't hear back, at least you've tried." 

2. Put yourself out there

"Today there is social media, so if you're just starting out, you can build your own profile in a different way. You can get your values and views out there. So I would say definitely do that." Andrea recommended. 

"Be bold, be brave, take risks in putting yourself out there."

3. Just start writing

"Just start writing - there are no limits. From the media, to even Twitter as a microblogging site, just start writing, flex your writing skills, flex your voice, meaning to find what your journalistic voice sounds like," Ade encouraged.

"Ask yourself, 'What do I like? What are the things that interest me? What are the talking points online that I always seem to connect with?'"

And a top tip from Yolanthe: "Don't call yourself an aspiring journalist, be a journalist." 

4. Lean into what makes you unique

"If a newsroom wanted more of the same, they would go out and hire was the same," explained Ade Onibada. "But they're distinctively looking for people who are going to put something different to what they're already churning out. There's no point trying to emulate someone else as you do yourself a massive disservice when you do that."

5. Challenge yourself

...and be brave! It is so important to try new things.

"Do something you are scared of on a regular basis, otherwise, you can't grow," encouraged Andrea. "Sometimes when I walk into a room, I think, 'how am I going to get through this?' And somehow you just throw it out there and it's terrifying. And you get through it, then you're like, 'okay, I did that maybe I can do more'. So I would say be brave. You can do it." 

6. Networking is key

"Once you start writing, it's the perfect springboard to then start recruiting for allies and advocates, which I always say, have been critical," explained Ade.

"I had people in the room who advocated for me who said, 'yes, she doesn't have that certificate. Yes, she doesn't have that necessarily knowledge. But I've seen what she's capable of and I actually think she's capable of more. So let's let her in the door and give her a chance'. And those are the people that will speak for you in rooms you aren't in."

The goody bag

Of course, you can't leave a Marie Claire event without a goody bag, which included skincare goodies and gorgeous hair products for curly locks. We're talking Mini Conditions Kit from PATTERN Beauty, a gorgeous Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo, a L'Oréal Professional Curl Expression Curl Reviving Spray, and a Curl & Quench Leave-In Conditioner from Rhyme & Reason. As well as a Water-Activated Advanced Condition from Wakati and a mini Intensive Moisture Treatment and Curl Cream from BOUCLÈME.

As well as some skincare goodies including a Fenty Skin Mini Skin Must Haves Set, a Keys Soulcare Golden Cleanser with Manuka Honey and Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream

Including even more all-time favourites, with Skin Therapy Cocoa Butter Hydrating Body Cream and Skin Therapy Mango Butter Raw Blend from Cantu. 

Amongst a very full (and heavy) bag, it also held an offer for Base Plus' personalised B+ Daily Moisturiser and the full range of Afrocenchix. 

Look out for more events of inspiration coming your way soon.

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.