Meet PR’s Diversity Problem

First the good news: our business gets a lot of credit for employing more women than most (though we still lag in terms of female executives).

According to major organizations on both sides of the Atlantic, however, ethnic diversity remains a problem.

The Public Relations Consultancy Association—Europe’s largest industry trade group—just announced an audit to better measure the state of diversity in the business. The audit will apply to both agency and in-house teams, and its questions will concern “fair recruitment practices and diversity and equality policies.”

The PRCA launched a Diversity Network earlier this year after studies found that, while 14% of UK residents belong to a minority group, only 8% of PR/marketing/advertising industry employees can say the same—and a whopping 90% of PR professionals are white. The reason for this gap, according to another PRCA study, is that awareness of the industry among minority groups is low.

The United States faces a very similar challenge.

Only “8.7 percent of African-Americans, 7.3 percent of Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders and 15.3 percent of Hispanics/Latinos” have jobs in the field, and today the PRSA announced a new initiative to boost those numbers.

In the press release, Ogilvy director/PRSA chair and CEO Mickey G. Nall says that diversity was one of his “top priorities” for 2013, and the purpose of the new project is to introduce more young people in minority communities to the opportunities available within the industry.

Beyond a series of introductory videos, the diversity push will include a mentorship program connecting students to comms vets, a guide for entering the business via networking, career fairs etc., and an “ask an expert” feature on the org’s diversity page.

Will that be enough? This February PR Week UK op-ed suggests other steps like eliminating unpaid internships but notes that flawed recruitment efforts are a big part of the problem.

We’d love your thoughts: what’s the current state of diversity in public relations, and how can we best address our own shortcomings?

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