Bieneosa Ebite, MD of Bright Star PR and chair of Ignite, which promotes cultural diversity in PR, said knowing the make-up of the industry is key to helping the industry move forward.
‘The starting point for the industry should be measurement,' said Ebite. 'Both the CIPR and the PRCA need to understand the current make-up of the industry in order to measure the effectiveness of any tactics used to improve diversity.
‘The CIPR recently undertook its annual membership survey, but failed to collect information on the make-up of its members in relation to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and religion or belief. This highlights a lack of strategy when it comes to embedding diversity.'
Ebite's comments follow publication of research last week which concluded that the PR industry is failing to make the most of the talents of black and minority ethnic practitioners.
Research, co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Leeds Metropolitan University, found that the industry could be doing more to value diversity of background.
Report author Dr Lee Edwards said: ‘Improving diversity within PR is a long-term project that needs genuine commitment from organisations and industry bodies. While there are a number of tactics that can be used, the research demonstrates that the most important change has to be cultural.'
Ebite concurred and added: ‘The solution is not about having a diversity policy on a website, or a paragraph in a nicely designed corporate governance document that only takes centre stage when filling out tender documents or trying to win international business. Diversity needs to be living and breathing at the heart of an organisation - it needs to be real.'
Ebite said mentoring and internships were good initiatives but should not be looked at in isolation. She also added that traditional networks should be opened up and new ones formed to include people from different backgrounds.
CIPR president-elect Paul Mylrea said in his blog there were still 'huge hurdles to overcome'.
'We are already working towards concrete actions on diversity and have set up a new Diversity Working Group, which will be looking to improve the profession's scorecard in this area. But it is still early days and we are keen for new input.
'We know that to deal with this, we need to avoid tick box exercises, which is what seemed to happen in the past. Equally, we know that senior buy-in from industry and the sector is crucial if we are going to move this forward.'
The latest research will be covered in more depth at the 'Diversity in PR: Learning from Research and Best Practice' conference on 7 July 2010, hosted by Edelman.
For additional information and to book a free place contact Dr Lee Edwards.