Female Magik: How Esta Yemaya responded to racial and gender based challenges in the screen industry

Esta Yemaya is a broadcast journalist, presenter, social media commentator and founder of Female Magik, a Leeds-based support group that provides a safe space for women of colour to network, share their experiences and find inspiration.

Esta’s story, not only as a person of colour but also as a woman and a young mother, illustrates issues and barriers that people face in the screen industries. As well as sharing her experiences, Esta offers her view on how things need to change and explains the drivers behind her decision to create Female Magik.

Growing up in Chapeltown, Leeds, Esta’s first challenge was to overcome people’s preconceptions of what people from the area could achieve. Early on in her life, the negative stereotypes associated with gangs, drugs and other social problems unfairly created low expectations of her abilities. Esta had to tackle racial barriers and feels that successful applications for job roles in the industry can be a box ticking exercise for companies; she is in no doubt that there is a ceiling to progression.

Esta also encountered issues as a young mother. Shortly after giving birth to her son, she started university, going on to achieve First Class Honours in Broadcast Media Technologies. After completing her degree however, Esta discovered that many employers were unsympathetic to the needs of working mothers with young children but she was determined to disprove the view that being a mother and working in the screen industries were mutually exclusive.

Esta explores how employers need to be more accommodating and advocates for a more flexible approach including job sharing to yield benefits for employers through a more diverse workforce with a broader range of skills and experiences. Esta’s treatment inspired her to take action. Frustrated and angered by the obstacles put in her way, she went on to found Female Magik to create opportunities for people like her.

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