Why you won’t see many brown faces in women’s magazines


One editor of a women’s magazine described it to me like this: “If we can produce an issue that isn’t full of blondes from the Cotswolds, then we’ll be onto something.”

It seems that even the insiders of the British women’s magazine industry are growing tired of publishing the same content each month that’s focussed on one type of woman and allows for very little diversity.

You know what I’m talking about. The endless magazine covers with white women, white models and white celebrities, interspersed with the occasional appearance from Beyonce or one of the Kardashian sisters. Inside is more of the same. Page after page of feature stories, beauty, skin and hair advice…very little of which is targeted at me. Of the few times Asians do grace the pages it’s for the usual stories on forced marriage and other aspects of cultural oppression.

Ok, I know I write about the latter quite often. But outside of that time, I’d like to know which new foundations work on my skin tone. Or about the new generation of products that help tame my often frizzy hair. I know you can find that kind of stuff in specific Desi publications. But where are the mainstream columnists and writers who provide a more culturally diverse perspective on life? Why is content for women like me still so marginalised?

A large part of the problem is the lack of black and minority ethnic (BME) journalists and editors in mainstream women’s magazines.  According to the Creative Skillset Employment Census of 2012, BME representation in the creative industries has declined from 7.4% of the total workforce in 2006 to 6.7% in 2009 and stood at just 5.4% in 2012.

Naturally the end result of such poor BME representation is editorial content with a blindingly white bias. There’s hardly anything that speaks to black and Asian women that is beyond cultural stereotyping.

Whilst there are many editors and writers amongst the British women’s press that I have a lot of respect for, I can’t get past the fact that there are so few black or Asian women in key editorial positions.  Instead, the women who are forecasting trends and telling us what is zeitgeist don’t actually reflect an ethnically diverse Britain at all.

Here’s a case in point. I love the new online publication The Pool, which launched just before Easter this year.

Their manifesto is to provide original, news-y content for busy, on the go women who often consume media on their smartphones. So far so good. It was co-founded by 6 Music DJ and presenter Lauren Laverne and former Cosmopolitan magazine editor Sam Baker. Great.

I was interested to see Sam Baker pop back up in the women’s magazine arena as she worked at Hearst magazines at the same time that I did. And for the record, I do love what they’ve created- it’s innovative, fun and genuinely original.

But it’s very disappointing to see that there isn’t one black or minority ethnic writer on their editorial team.

The Pool

Some of the staff writers at The Pool

Why have Laverne and Baker not accounted for ethnicity at all? Yes they have a fabulous team on-board, many of whom I admire. But – for now- I can’t see anything on The Pool about parenting and ethnicity; beauty for darker skin tones; racist sexism; the ethnic gender pay gap or diversity in the boardroom. Why should topics like that be confined to blogs and specialist publications alone?

So here’s my plea to the women’s magazine industry. Take note of the fact that the women of Britain don’t fit one mould.  If you include a non-white voice in your editorial offering you’re not going to alienate all your white readers. Breaking: they might actually enjoy a different perspective. And with the number of white people decreasing in the UK, chances are your readers won’t all be white women anyway.

Who is today’s British Asian Woman?

In honour of the launch of britishasianwoman.com, I’m publishing this post- usually to be found in the ‘About’ section. It’s kind of my thoughts on who this site is about and who it’s aimed  at. Whether you identify with it, or find it stereotyped and wholly disagree, please do leave a comment, start a rant, generally engage- I love a good discussion!

You can also email me editor@britishasianwoman.com

There’s so much diversity among the female Asian community in Britain today.

Despite that many of us were born here, our parents were not. And because of this, we grew up as sort of foreigners in a host nation. We ate rice and subji on a Sunday, not roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. We had ‘funny sounding’ names- often the only ones on the class register. Our mums wore lengha suits and saris to pick us up from school – she was the woman dressed in bright orange!

Today we speak two (maybe more) languages. Our parents and extended families are a part of our daily lives, and not just relatives to be tolerated on special occasions. We may watch Bollywood films, but Hollywood films far outnumber on our DVD shelves. We love to settle down with a pizza- but we cook a mean chicken bhiriyani!

Some of us have had arranged marriages and live with in-laws. We’re raising kids that’ll be the next generation of British Asians. Others among us chose to marry non-Asian men and are living in the suburbs (and elsewhere) raising mixed-race children, and are living out the experience of having access to two different cultures.

For those of us who are single, our search for love probably looks quite different to that of the previous generation. Dating sites, speed dating, even dating itself (albeit perhaps chaperoned for some communities) are a feature of that quest- we’re no longer just using the traditional route of introductions through family.

And no longer are Asian women just expected to get married and breed more Asians- certainly many have fought for this choice. Think of the many British Asian women in public life: in the media, in government just to name two arenas. We’re blazing a trail for the next generation- showing them that we can achieve so much more, and this is not to be underestimated.

Today our faces are part of the very fabric of this country- and how fantastic that is. We grew up here, are raising our families here, and call Britain our home. We are not just Pakistani, Indian or Sri Lankan women, we’re British Asian women.


Notice something different?

That’s right, britishasianmum.com has changed to britishasianwoman.com! The same thought-provoking content, only now with a broader scope that will hopefully appeal to women (and men) from all walks of life.

Check out the new categories to see what I’m all about. From dating to current affairs, parenting to feminism- and much more.

Happy reading,

British Asian Woman x