WASHINGTON, DC: An informal PRWeek survey of black PR pros has found that the Washington, DC metropolitan area may be the best place for African-Americans to advance professionally.
WASHINGTON, DC: An informal PRWeek survey of black PR pros has
found that the Washington, DC metropolitan area may be the best place
for African-Americans to advance professionally.
Michael Lewellen, SVP of BET Holdings, has lived in New York, Atlanta
and Portland, OR, and believes that Washington’s diversity of
professional opportunities makes it the most desirable location. He
also pointed to the area’s strong federal and corporate base as well as
its three distinct regions - DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia - as
’We are not industry dominant,’ he explained, citing the prominence of
entertainment in Los Angeles and finance in New York. ’There is
tremendous diversity here.’
Gwen McKinney, president of McKinney and McDowell Associates, echoed
Lewellen’s opinions: ’The unique nature of Washington is that
communicators and lawyers find a bonanza here. It’s an excellent place
for everyone, regardless of race.’
Ofield Dukes, Washington chapter president of the Black Public
Relations Society, cited the 4,000+ trade associations and professional
societies headquartered in the region and the Fortune 500 companies
whose local arms oversee public and government affairs. He also noted
the enthusiasm of the DC PR community: the Washington BPRS chapter
averages about 100 active members per meeting, with more than 120
attending its most recent job fair.
However, some disagree with the assessment of DC as the premier market
for black pros. Tonya Allen Clements, an account supervisor at Z
Communications, said DC lags behind New York and Chicago.
’There are far more opportunities there ... if you want to live in New
York,’ she said, acknowledging that ’a lot of people won’t go to New
York.’ She added that Chicago is equally impressive, hosting a plethora
of major ad agencies that have ties to PR firms.
As for professional advancement, Clements said, ’The city doesn’t
matter - it is the agency and the talent of the individual. I’m
convinced of it.’
Enid Doggett, a VP of corporate affairs at Ketchum, said that black
pros need to be more aggressive about ’getting a seat at the table’ in
But she said applicants will experience subtle discrimination and
warned would-be DC agency pros to be prepared to work for ’someone
younger than you are.’