Diversity in PR is depressing

Posted by Sara Hawthorn
Sara Hawthorn under rainbow arches in Leeds

Diversity in PR has been weighed, measured and found wanting. Our hard of hearing director has had enough.

Between the CIPR’s latest State of the Profession report and the few snapshots of the PRCA’s latest census appearing on social media the diversity figures are, yet again, pretty dismal and completely depressing.

I am done being polite about this, I am done reading articles about the complexities of diversity and why high-level strategic actions need to be implemented for long-term agency evolution. Just. Stop.

I am done hearing stories from students with non-white sounding names who failed to get any responses agencies despite sending out the same work experience application letters as their pronounceable-named white peers and I am SO VERY DONE with those same agencies spouting diversity and inclusion mantras all over the internet.

I am done with the pats on the back for even the tiniest of improvements. It trivialises the mountain we’ve yet to scale when it comes to diversity and inclusion and fools us into thinking we’ve come further than we have. We are spinning our own statistics.

If we insist on discussing it at length, let’s start with a big, bold why. In fact, let’s start with some honesty. Real, brutal self-awareness. Implicit bias and unconscious bias exists. Our agencies are not representative. We’re not making it significantly better, despite all the talk. We say we celebrate difference and do little to make it happen. Just take a look around your office, for goodness’ sake. We still judge people on how they look and whether they look ‘right’.

These are not statements people will like to hear. Some may shout them down, get defensive. Deny them. But the statistics are there. And honestly, just google PR agency and look the team sections. It’s bloody obvious.

Why are we waiting for change, what are we waiting on? External training? And internal mandate? Someone else to take the first steps? Take responsibility and look into your own biases whether you’re a junior executive or the sodding MD.

I am angry that for a community which executes big ideas and comes up with answers to problems we appear so utterly inept at blind recruitment, disability inclusion and saying enough is enough. I am tired of being the only openly deaf PR pro at an event and not seeing any kind of noticeable disability inclusion. I want more from this industry and faster, and so should others.

Be the one to start the conversation about how white/middle-class/hetero-normative/able your office is. Be the one to say; ‘folks, I don’t think this is ok, how do we make it better?’. Be the one to instigate change, don’t wait for someone else, believing it’s their responsibility. The duty is on all of us to call things out, suggest alternative paths, processes and views.

If we get to yet another census publication and have statistics which don’t tell a markedly different story then something is inherently broken in our industry and we are circling around an ugly and unpleasant truth.

Let’s not be that industry.