PR has a serious problem. It’s one that no one talks about and is never really addressed but it’s a problem that many of us who work in communications and public relations will recognise this – it’s the lack of diversity in the sector.
Worse still, ethnic diversity within the PR industry has actually gone backwards from 11% in 2015 to 8% in 2019 according to the CIPR (14% of the UK population is Black, Asian and minority ethnic).
Many of us will have worked in these homogeneous environments and by failing to attract talented PoC to join or stay in PR & communications, the industry loses out on what PoC bring to the table.
In fact, evidence shows that a diverse team is more innovative and productive. So why hasn’t the industry done more to attract and keep BAME talent? Is it structural racism? Or an unconscious racial bias?
The Black Lives Matter movement now sweeping the UK seems like a seminal moment when just maybe the industry will finally take a hard look at itself and do something.
There are already fantastic grassroots projects which have been chipping away at this such as bme pr pros which matches young talented, young BAME professionals with an established mentor or BYP Network which is a huge network that helps black professionals to connect with each other and companies.
The NUJ has long been tackling racism in the workplace and fighting for BAME members. The George Viner Memorial Fund was set up by the NUJ to broaden the diversity of journalists working in the media and since its inception in 1986 has helped more than 150 BAME students obtain the training they need to smash through the glass ceiling.
But there are also a few things we all could do to encourage equality and equity in our own workplaces:
- Foster a healthy, open-minded workplace
- Champion BAME talent through mentorship schemes
- Name-blind CVs to eliminate unconscious biases during the application process
- Recognise talent and open the door to BAME professionals
- Push for more BAME professionals at a senior leadership level
We really need to combat the lack of representation of PoC in the PR industry.
All-white male comms teams are not something to be proud of in modern Britain and it’s not enough for large organisations to pay lip service to diversity and the BLM movement, while at the same time, not getting their own house in order.
Building a stronger NUJ in the PR industry, getting organised at work and shouting about the union’s equality policies are key steps we can take to redistribute privilege within the industry and ensure that we effectively combat racial discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head.
- Imthiaz Rehman is an experienced PR Manager and writes this in a personal capacity