Time to get real on PR's diversity issue

The PR industry needs to change.

Tanya Joseph: "The aim for a productive approach - what are the real reasons we're not attracting those from diverse backgrounds?"
Tanya Joseph: "The aim for a productive approach - what are the real reasons we're not attracting those from diverse backgrounds?"

I think we have five years to stop being a white, middleclass industry and start reflecting the rich diversity of British society. If we don't, we risk looking seriously irrelevant.

In 2011, the PRCA/PRWeek PR Census revealed that more than 90 per cent of the industry were white, just three per cent were Asian, and two per cent African or Caribbean. Staggering.

And it isn't just the lack of ethnic diversity that is a problem. Just think about age, gender, disability and socioeconomic group. We score badly against all.

Things are better than they were. When I first started in consultancy I was struck by the dominance of white, privately educated men. There were very few people who looked or spoke like me.

Thankfully, we are seeing more women in the boardroom and I am no longer the only dark face at industry events. But we are still far from representative.

Let's be clear; this is not about being politically correct. This is about attracting the best people to our industry, who bring with them a whole variety of experiences and perspectives, who connect with our clients and with the audiences we are seeking to engage.

There is only one discrimination we should tolerate. We should favour bright people. Currently we are missing out on lots of bright people.

The PRCA campaign to eliminate unpaid internships is helping to tackle the problem. We are lifting some barriers to the profession. But there is so much more to do. That's why I decided to back the PRCA's Diversity Network - I realised we aren't going to make progress without a serious commitment.

The aim of the group is to take a productive approach - what are the real reasons we're not attracting those from diverse backgrounds? How much is this to do with education, recruitment or geographical bias? What can we do to change? It's time to be honest and look for the real answers.

So, I'm throwing down the gauntlet. The Diversity Network's first meeting is on 26 February - contact the PRCA to get the details if you want to make a real change.

Tanya Joseph is chair of the PRCA Diversity Network and director of business partnerships at Sport England

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