Fozia Khan is a Commissioning Editor for Channel 4 and has worked on recent productions including Damilola: The Boy Next Door and 24 Hours in Police Custody. As a documentary-maker, Fozia produced Extremely British Muslims and My Week as a Muslim, also for Channel 4.
When she was starting out, Fozia experienced the lack of diversity within the screen industry first hand; this was reflected in assumptions relating to her upbringing, education and knowledge. Growing up on a council estate with non-English speaking parents, Fozia’s background provided a stark contrast to the experiences of the vast majority of people within the industry but this was rarely understood. By embracing her identity, Fozia developed the confidence to challenge assumptions and to ask questions when she was expected to know the answers.
Race and background were not the only obstacles, however. Fozia has observed a lot of women leaving the industry and identifies being a working mum as the biggest challenge. Getting the work/life balance right is extremely difficult and virtually impossible without help and support. Gender is also an obstacle to progression. For example, whilst there appears to be a well trodden path for male producers to make the move into directing early on in their careers, there are fewer opportunities for women, and encouragement to explore options for career development is not forthcoming.
Fozia is frustrated by the familiar issue of a lack of diversity at higher levels within the industry. Without this, pitching ideas can be very difficult as decisions are based on established reference points, with limited understanding given to wider cultural influences and experiences. Despite industry executives telling a good story and displaying the right intentions, the one aspect of the screen industry that will make the most difference – recruitment – still needs to be worked on.