If PR is serious about diversity it has to overhaul the job spec

Across the UK, from Edinburgh to Earls Court, the public relations industry isolates the public and gives a masterclass in how to create barriers instead of opportunities.

The PR industry needs to protect its own reputation, not just its clients
The PR industry needs to protect its own reputation, not just its clients
In 2011 a council in west London advertised for a head of corporate communications.

The job specification said it was essential to have a good degree in a relevant subject. 

This raises two questions: what is a good degree? And what subjects are relevant to communications?
 
This is not an isolated example.

A university in the Midlands is currently advertising for a director of external relations and it is preferable that the applicant has a higher degree in marketing, or a business-related discipline.

There is a link between equality and education. 

The latest figures for 2014 from the Office for National Statistics show that someone is more likely to have a degree if they are from London than if they are from Corby, Great Yarmouth or Merthyr Tydfil.

A study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) this year showed that female students are more likely to achieve an upper second degree, or higher, than male students with the same A-level results.

The study also found a significant variation in degree results for students from different ethnicities: 72 per cent of white students who entered higher education with A-level grades of BBB gained a first or upper second class degree.

This compares with 56 per cent for Asian students, and 53 per cent for black students, entering with the same A-level grades.

In August 2014, an NHS Trust advertised for a head of communications post that required "senior communications" experience in the NHS.

How many people from under-represented groups would have met that criterion? Why not consider experience from other organisations, such as the Fire Brigade?

Degree subject should not matter.

Not everyone with a law degree goes on to be a solicitor. Gabby Logan, a law graduate, became a TV presenter. The editorial director of Hearst Magazines – which publishes Good Housekeeping – has a degree in astrophysics. A former BBC head of communications had a degree in music.

There is also a link between race and degree subject.

Findings from a previous HEFCE study in 2010 showed that the proportion of mature students who studied an engineering, architecture or a science subject was greater for every minority ethnic group than for white students.

The reputation of an organisation, which PR people are supposed to protect, can be damaged by inequality and not just in the short-term.

Stephen Lawrence died in 1993 but, more than 20 years later, the Metropolitan Police is still receiving negative media coverage based on aspects of the story.

Former Countryfile presenter, Miriam O'Reilly, won her ageism case against the BBC in 2011, but this month – just three years later – she was in the news again when she gave evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee about age discrimination.

So, if PR is serious about managing reputation, it needs to understand the impact equality issues can have on media coverage. 

The PR industry needs to integrate diversity into all aspects of its business to protect its own reputation, not just that of its clients.

Sunjay Kakar is a freelance journalist

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