‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber’ (she just doesn’t know it yet), this was the ad that sparked anger in the UK and disbelief around the world. The ad was part of the ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot’ campaign initiated in 2019, by the QA company together with the British Government and NCSC in order to encourage the British population to reconsider their career paths and redirect towards cyber alternatives.
Needless to say that it wasn’t well perceived by the public and simply demonstrated the disregard of Boris Johnson’s current government towards the artistic community. Which according to the Arts Council of England contributes to the UK economy with over £10 billion per year.
The inevitable backlash that resulted on social media included judgment and apologies from the culture minister Oliver Dowden over Twitter, who also announced the extra financial support of £1.57bn for the culture and arts sector. The MP stated that the ad was “crass” and “not something from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS)”
However, even if the images of “helpless dancers and sales workers” have been pulled it won’t be easily forgotten nor forgiven. It is absurd how such a vital industry, that is meant to be supported and promoted, was clearly disrespected and underestimated in a period of uncertainty such as the one we’re currently going through. It is true that remote working became a viable alternative, however, this shouldn’t undermine the relevance of creative jobs and their investment in society. And sadly, yet not surprising, this campaign followed. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s comments made in the past week: “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis. And that’s why we’ve put a lot of our extra resources into trying to create new opportunities for people”.
Even if the intention behind both these comments and ads might have been the one to encourage people to find solutions following the Covid-19 pandemic, they did just the opposite.
Creative careers are as important as any others, and we shouldn’t be discouraged from thinking so simply because they may not conform to the outdated perceptions or social norms. Luckily, the reaction of every single one of us, including known personalities demonstrates that the majority of the population realises this and will continue to defend the Arts and Culture industry no matter the actions taken by the government.
If you’re in the mood for a laugh, view some of our favourite tweets:
Words by Chiara Ferrari