With diversity inevitable, industry needs to prepare

When PR professionals in the New York area met recently for one of PRWeek's regional roundtable discussions, an issue high on the radar was, as always, the industry's lack of diversity.

When PR professionals in the New York area met recently for one of PRWeek's regional roundtable discussions, an issue high on the radar was, as always, the industry's lack of diversity.

"But we're trying," agency executives lament, citing recruitment and internship programs, leadership workshops, and other diversity-focused initiatives.

Even as the industry strives to create more multi-ethnic and multicultural work environments, PR executives say diversity is nowhere close to where anyone wants it to be, and segregation - by way of practices and entire agencies catering to and staffed by African-American, Hispanic, and GLBT communities - continues to exist.

But, the bright side is that diversity can and will happen naturally, thanks to globalization, technology, and time. The focus now, for PR's senior-level leaders, is to ensure that the industry is adequately prepared for the inevitable changes.

Globalization will play a tremendous role in creating more diverse environments for clients and agencies. That means, if only as a practical matter, firms should boost staff at all levels to include a wider representation of cultures, ethnicities, and lifestyle backgrounds.

Technology, too, is key to fixing the diversity dilemma. On the Internet, it's very easy to reach audiences of every demographic. To prepare, agency management should make certain now that new-media savvy is part of every junior toolkit. They also must encourage experimentation and adoption among more seasoned staffers.

Most of all, with time, change will come. Execs say a major challenge is finding enough talented employees to staff integrated practices. The population, as a whole, is becoming evermore culturally mingled. With the next generation of PR leaders, that fusion will transcend from lifestyle into the workplace.

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