I’m an advertising creative and also a British Pakistani, working class, Muslim woman. Rare, right? It shouldn’t be

Selma Ahmed

For The Drum's Diversity Census, we invited individuals from across the marketing industries to tell us how their experience of being ‘different’ has shaped their careers.

Selma Ahmed, creative at Sunshine, is the latest to share her perspective in our 'Talent is Talent' series.

My name is Selma Ahmed and I’m an advertising creative. I’m also a British Pakistani, working class, hijabi Muslim woman. Rare, right? It shouldn’t be.

When I was growing up I had no awareness of the advertising industry. It wasn’t something I had ever considered. But then one conversation with another woman of colour changed my ambitions. I found myself working my arse off to secure a job I felt was right for me. Someone paying me for my ideas? Sick.

But I soon came to realise why this industry had never been on my radar. As I walked into agency after agency for book crits and placements, I saw hardly any people of colour, and to this day I’ve never bumped into another Muslim woman with my job (surprising, given Muslims make up 4.5 per cent of this population). This really started to jar with me.

Yes, being ‘different’ helped me stand out. People remember me and I offer a fresh perspective that I do feel has been valued. But I’m not a man. And, I’m not white. I’m a woman of colour, a Muslim, and that comes with infinite challenges.

One I’m currently struggling with is this: as creatives, we’re in unique positions of power to shape people’s lives, decide what they see every day and define what is talked about in popular culture. So why is it, that since forever and always, only certain types of people have had the opportunity to decide what this is?

How can agencies expect their ideas to resonate within a multicultural society if the people coming up with them can’t relate to a lot of the people they’re trying to reach?

There needs to be an industry-wide awakening to this issue. We all need to be conscious and active in knocking down the walls of racial, economic and gender-based privilege, which have created a closed industry. However, this isn’t about ticking boxes and token positive discrimination. Talent is talent, and should be recognised as just that.

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Staff Writer

The Drum is a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe. We produce The Drum magazine, 30 awards and events and manage The Drum Network which aims to make independently minded agencies more successful. We also help brands find the right agencies to work with through the Recommended Agency Register (RAR).

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