PRSA survey spotlights the industry's lack of diversity

NEW YORK: PR practitioners believe that agencies lag behind other areas of the industry in recruiting diverse talent, according to a new diversity survey conducted by the PRSA.

NEW YORK: PR practitioners believe that agencies lag behind other areas of the industry in recruiting diverse talent, according to a new diversity survey conducted by the PRSA.

In the survey of 2,023 PRSA members, only 41% of the respondents thought that agencies have been successful in building diversity among PR practitioners, compared to 51% for associations, 52% for corporations, 69% for nonprofits, and 72% for government.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents to the PRSA survey described themselves as white or Caucasian, a point that some were quick to highlight.

"The race of the respondents demonstrated that minority practitioners are not part of the PRSA," said Debi Miller, who was the group's first black president. "Those who are in hiring positions need to be cognizant that practitioners of color are qualified and highly skilled, and what they may lack is access to those who are able to hire."

The survey also found that 52% of respondents believe that PR is on par with similar professions in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, while 29% thought that comparable professions have done a better job than PR.

Current PRSA president Reed Byrum said that he has made diversity one of his three main strategic initiatives for 2003, calling for "a culturally richer society."

"The profession has made major strides," he said, "but we are at a perfect time to enhance our efforts. We need to vigorously recruit minorities in the profession and nurture them into leadership positions."

Forty-six percent of respondents felt that agencies lose minority practitioners to corporations because they pay higher salaries, while 51% agreed with the statement that PR organizations too often hire minority workers solely for race-specific issues and programs.

"The PR industry is lagging behind because the status quo has been beneficial to the PR practitioners, and change becomes a threat to a system that had been advantageous to them," said Ofield Dukes, senior counsel to the PRSA's diversity board. "But if they are to be competitive, they will have to accept the change that is happening throughout the world."

There was no clear consensus among respondents about the possible barriers to a more diverse profession. Nearly equal numbers said that the pool of "qualified" minority practitioners is limited (25%), that promising minority candidates are drawn to other professions (26%), and that the industry has done a poor job of promoting PR careers for minorities practitioners at all levels (27%).

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