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ED&I: Immediate’s root and branch approach

Paying lip service to improved diversity and inclusion is one thing, putting someone in charge of putting it right is another. Ridhi Radia, who was given that role at Immediate Media, tells Ciar Byrne why ED&I matters and outlines the practical steps they have taken.

By Ciar Byrne

ED&I: Immediate’s root and branch approach
“A McKinsey report in 2020 found that a diverse workforce is 35% more likely to have above average financial returns.”

In 2020, Ridhi Radia was working as a senior PR manager at Immediate Media when the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd made her reflect on her own experience in magazine publishing. Having grown up in India, she moved to the UK at the age of 15 and read every magazine she could get her hands on: “They were my go-to for understanding western culture and trying to fit in.”

She sent an email to Jo Brandl, Immediate’s chief people officer, pouring out her passion and concerns, who responded by suggesting a secondment to a new role as a diversity and inclusion manager. Having carved out this new space, and completed lots of training in the area, she is now head of equality, diversity and inclusion at Immediate and is leading the way within the industry.

“That’s the good thing about Immediate; when they recognise a passion you have, they really support you in pursuing it. They listened to me and gave me the space to make changes at Immediate. I didn’t come from an ED&I background. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to leave PR because that was my safety blanket. I took it on as a secondment and I never looked back. I realised I had this purpose,” she explains.


She believes that ED&I is vital to future proofing magazine publishing. At the forefront of this is representation. Enabling people from diverse backgrounds to tell their stories benefits everyone.

“Stories have this amazing ability to bring us together and open doors to different perspectives, helping us to broaden our understanding of the world and inspire and empower us. The problem is when we only hear stories from a small group of people with similar experiences and then you miss out on the bigger picture. Diverse voices and perspectives are crucial for an accurate representation of society,” she says.

As well as helping people to feel seen, heard and understood, in an increasingly competitive world, there is a very real demand for representation from prospective clients, audiences and the people they want to hire. Radia wants to create a supportive culture where people who work in the industry have the resources and opportunity to thrive.

Diversity fosters innovation and creativity, offering fresh perspectives and innovative content that resonates with a wider range of audiences. This in turn can lead to a positive economic impact. A McKinsey report in 2020 found that a diverse workforce is 35% more likely to have above average financial returns.

Ridhi Radia: “I realised I had this purpose.”

Radia says: “Diverse audiences are often underserved, and they represent significant market opportunities. By really catering to a broader range of audiences and their diverse interests, brands and publishers can attract new audiences, increase reach, and drive revenue growth. For me it’s just good business sense.”

As a company with influential brands and powerful platforms, she believes Immediate has a social responsibility.

“We have the power to shape narratives, influence public opinion, drive social change. By actively working towards diversity, we can contribute to a more equitable society, challenge systemic barriers, and promote inclusivity.”

There is also the matter of talent recruitment and retention with 80% of graduates now looking at a company’s ED&I policies before they consider joining. Leadership candidates, advertisers and other commercial partners insist on it being a core part of a company’s philosophy.

But when Radia took on the role at Immediate, there wasn’t a separate ED&I strategy. Her first step was to launch an independent internal audit, with the help of Dr Joanna Abeyie, an expert in the field who has helped guide and mentor her. The audit helped to identify the gaps and challenges within the organisation and to understand how they could make diversity and inclusion central to decision making.

A multipronged approach

There are four key strands to the strategy she has developed. The first is around setting up and empowering network groups. There are now seven of these at Immediate, including IM Woman, IM Proud, IM Minds and Bodies, IM Families, Multicultural at Immediate, a women in tech group and a menopause support group. They meet regularly both online and in person to discuss challenges such as leadership composition, mental health issues, hiring and retention. They have also helped editorial teams to better understand the different intersectionalities of diversity.

“The networks have empowered and made people feel included. They’ve provided a safe, open environment to network, be in our life, mentor and exchange ideas and experiences. It’s a space for people with differences and different ideas. It’s created a fantastic working environment,” she says.

The second strand is education and training, giving people the tools to create a more diverse workplace and understand their own biases. They have introduced a company-wide training programme, but Radia believes that you can’t move the dial with training alone, so these are supported with inclusive events. Ali Foster-Grose and the Immediate Media events team introduced the IM Talking series where change leaders share their lived experiences, whether that’s around men and mental health, race, transitioning in the workplace, neurodiversity, menopause, or periods. There are book-clubs and conversation groups. Radia says these are “conversations which can become uncomfortable but have helped people feel heard, learn from each other and be better allies to each other”. She adds: “When you listen to people’s stories, the engagement you get from that is quite different from a standard training session.”

The third area is editorial and external, making sure the content offered on the company’s many platforms is as diverse and inclusive as possible. This includes commissioning inclusive content and recruiting new columnists, writers, presenters, and podcasters to amplify voices that have not traditionally been heard in the media.

“Different brands are on different journeys, they have different audiences, different content, different guidelines, but ED&I is a priority for every brand and every platform.”

For example, realised they had a gap in their content around food for religious festivals such as Diwali and Eid. They developed new content, grew a new audience and are now number one in Google for religious diverse recipes.

The fourth strand is around recruitment and processes. Immediate has ensured that job roles and the language they use around them are inclusive. They have introduced salary ranges to job adverts, which were not there previously, as research shows this helps to create a more equitable playing field for women, people from a diverse ethnic background and those from a lower socioeconomic background. They have also committed to gender balanced shortlists and blind CVs to help eliminate unconscious bias.

An example is the company’s realisation that there was a gap around menopausal women, the support they were providing and the language they were using, or not using as it wasn’t a subject that was often discussed. They launched a Menopause Network Group and partnered with Balance, the organisation founded by Dr Louise Newson to provide talks and training. Dr Newson also wrote a viewpoint for the Radio Times around the invisibility of menopause in television.

“Just showing that we are there doing all of this and attracting women who might be going through perimenopause or menopause, to help us increase our talent recruitment and attraction as well,” says Radia.

On a journey

She is careful to point out there is no one size fits all solution to ED&I and that it is more about an ongoing commitment to changing the status quo and tackling biases.

“Some people might have been involved with diversity for some time, whereas others are just learning what microaggressions are. The most important thing we realise is to make sure we are open, willing to learn and always listening.”

Since she took on the role, over 40% of people at Immediate are now involved in network groups and they have held more than 150 inclusion themed events. This year, they became the first in the industry to publish their ethnicity pay gap report, helping them to be more transparent. They have introduced more family friendly policies, enhancing their support packages for maternity, paternity, adoption, surrogacy, fertility support and pregnancy loss.

One of her biggest recommendations for other companies embarking on a similar journey is that “measurement and data are your best friend”.

“It can be so overwhelming to look at the entire picture but having data to help you spot those holes will make it so much easier to come up with a plan and plug those gaps,” she says.

Their own internal audit revealed the lack of diversity in the company was greater than they thought. In response, since 2020, they have increased the proportion of ethnic hires by a third.

But she believes there is still a long way to go, both at junior and senior levels.

“Role modelling is so important; if you don’t see yourself in a company at a senior level, or in enough content, you’re less likely to join the industry.”

She is part of the PPA’s ED&I steering group and has formed partnerships with schools and other community organisations to open up the industry and show that everyone is welcome.

One important current trend in this area is around empathetic leadership, creating an inclusive environment where people feel safe to speak up, provide feedback and raise concerns. Another is around hybrid working, providing opportunities for in-person contact, particularly for new starters, while moving away from a culture of presenteeism.

It has been a learning journey which she has embraced.

Radia acknowledges the space, support and profile that leadership at Immediate, in particular Jo Brandl and Tom Bureau, have given: “They were open, supportive and transparent about change and making ED&I a priority which really helped move the dial and gave me a voice at the regular company All Hands.”

“I’ve learnt to be more patient and realise that it’s not going to happen overnight. The biggest challenge around ED&I is that diversity opens the door to some tough conversations which challenge us to look at our own biases and personal beliefs. There can be a natural feeling to want to defend or deflect. It’s important to understand that it’s ok to be uncomfortable. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.