Diversity: how we can change the face of the PR industry

Diversity is the future of public relations. Without a diverse and multi-skilled team, an agency cannot cater to today's ever-globalised market, writes Farzana Baduel of Curzon.

Unpaid internships are at the crux of the problem of the ‘class ceiling’, writes Farzana Baduel
Unpaid internships are at the crux of the problem of the ‘class ceiling’, writes Farzana Baduel
Diversity gives agencies a unique and competitive edge, providing different perspectives, life experiences and knowledge when working across international markets.

A recent survey funded by the PRSA Foundation found 56 per cent of participants felt they had not been afforded the same opportunities in PR as their white counterparts. 

This disparity, along with gender imbalance in senior positions and the ‘class ceiling’ that workers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face, is an indicator that radical solutions are needed to solve the industry’s ever-growing problem. 

PR is about building relationships and trust, and who you know is as important as what you know. Entry into the field works in a similar fashion. 

Prospective PRs from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often lose out on opportunities to those from wealthier families, as they cannot afford to work for free to gain experience. 

Unpaid internships are at the crux of the problem of the ‘class ceiling’. I used to offer unpaid internships, until I realised the damage caused as you immediately disqualify people from low-income families. 

PR agencies should offer paid internships, to ensure opportunities are available to talented candidates from all socioeconomic backgrounds and eliminate unfair exclusivity. 

While 14 per cent of the British population are from a non-white background, recent figures show only eight per cent of PRs are from an ethnic minority, meaning almost half of the ethnic population are not represented in PR. 

Agencies can increase their diversity by working with organisations to address accessibility in the industry. 

When it comes to gender disparity, men are more likely to be in senior positions, despite women making up over two-thirds of PRs. 

The problem lies in work-life integration, made more difficult for mothers balancing their job with their home lives. 

For women, it becomes a trade-off between taking a promotion, and being able to see their husband and children. 

More flexible working hours or working part-time should be available so agencies can retain staff, and women do not feel they cannot reach for a promotion and have a family at the same time. 

There are no quick fixes to the problem of diversity. A solution requires long-term commitment and dedication to make the PR industry one that can justifiably pride itself on having a multicultural and gender-balanced workforce thriving on inclusivity and equality. 

Paid internships are the best and most practical place to start. 

It’s all about taking steps to ensure the doors to the PR industry are open to diverse, young talent.

Farzana Baduel is the managing director of Curzon PR

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