By Janay Tyson
Growing up, I was always fascinated with pop culture and the influence that celebrities, actors and entertainers had on the world. I loved seeing images of the lavish lives they lived and the opportunities they could have because of their craft. Yet, the older I got, I realized that there weren’t many individuals that looked like me through various forms of media. If there were people of color represented, they played typecast roles or were portrayed in a negative light and didn’t seem to get the promotions that their white counterparts did. Representation in media matters because with the changing world that we live in, the content we create, who we portray and how, must reflect the population and the diverse individuals that live within it.
In an article named, “The Media’s Lack of Diversity and Why It Matters to You,” written by Michael Nam, he explains how detrimental the lack of diversity in media can be in shaping the opinions of society. Not only are the images we see on television and what is being said about certain groups and communities affect how we view them, but also perceptions of ourselves. A 2012 study done by CNN “showed that self-esteem among white boys increased while that of white girls and Black children in general decreased with consumption of television media.” A lack of representative diversity can deeply affect ambitions and aspirations of the underrepresented from an early age.” The content that the media chooses to broadcast has a very influential role in how younger generations and people of color view themselves.
How does this fit into your position as an intern or when finding an internship you ask? I believe diversity is a key component to any successful workplace environment. When looking for internships, research the company’s leadership and values to see if they align with a perspective that reflects diversity in thought and background. Also, if you are a student of color, apply to any and all internships because the more representation they have, the more voices are in the room that otherwise might have been there before. While working at my internship this past summer, I made it a point to always speak up in meetings or bring up points that I didn’t think were noticed or mentioned due to working in a mainly white-dominated office. During my time, I found that my input was appreciated and well-received because I brought a conversation to the table that was not considered before. I completed various projects that enabled me to make an impact on the staff and company in hopes of diversifying their brand and messaging. My advice for any student would be to make your voice heard and don’t be afraid to ask questions or challenge opinions when working for an internship because supervisors actually enjoy when you speak up; it shows you’re paying attention and using critical thinking skills on the job.
Representation matters because our world is changing at a rapid pace and all people deserve to have positive images of themselves in the news stories we read, shows we watch, companies where we work, or music we listen to. “Globally, individuals on average spent 456.1 minutes each day consuming media last year,” said Rani Molla, a writer for Recode, a technology news website, and “Mobile internet consumption accounted for 19 percent of all global media consumption last year.” Because media is how we gain most information about the world, it’s time we start looking at the ways we describe and portray women, children and minorities who are most affected by this. We must move away from discriminatory hiring practices, generate news that doesn’t highlight crime or other negative acts and diversify our casts lists and the roles actors/actresses are given to play. Society is becoming more multicultural every day and because of this, our world and the media will have to follow suit.