Citing diversity and opportunity, black pros call DC most friendly

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.

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

contributing factors.



’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

PR firms.



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.’



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