What you see is what you get: Why LGBT+ visibility in comms remains vital

Last week, the Financial Times released its OUTstanding list of the 100 most influential LGBT+ leaders in business.

Visibility for gay people in the industry is a good start, but it's only a start, says Matt Gurr
Visibility for gay people in the industry is a good start, but it's only a start, says Matt Gurr
As a gay man, I’m stoked stuff like this exists to celebrate brilliant queer leaders.

But if you look at the PRWeek report closely, you might notice something about the individuals they’ve highlighted who made the list. Male? Almost exclusively. White? You bet.

This is an imbalance represented in the full list and it is not surprising - it unfortunately reflects the demographic of the average UK boardroom.

What might be more surprising is that this imbalance also reflects our sector at large.

For what would probably be seen by many as a progressive and diverse industry, the PRCA’s 2016 census revealed that of the PR practitioners who identify as gay, 90% are male - with lesbian women and bisexual people, as well as transgender people, barely featuring. 

I vividly remember the first time I told someone at my first PR job that I’m gay.

It felt like a big deal. "I’ve got a date tonight," I told a colleague. "It’s a guy, by the way." I remember my heart racing - as if it were the first time I’d said it out loud.

Of course, it was no big deal. The workforce of that agency had a number of gay men making up its staff, including senior leadership.

And perhaps more importantly, the inclusive culture of the agency (which lived and breathed through its entire workforce) made it easy to be open about my sexuality.

Taking my experience into account, and viewing the PRCA’s statistics alongside those of the FT; it’s hard not to draw a line between them.

Surely, the dominant visibility of gay, white men creates a culture where other gay, white men (like myself) feel more comfortable being 'out'.

So what about those unrepresented, who don’t feature on these kinds of lists? The non "G" part of the acronym? People who aren’t visible within our industry?

We must give more of a platform to the full spectrum of identities - through internal communities and our work.

Our industry - more than many others - has a huge responsibility in influencing broader culture.

One article cannot do this point justice - but with PR teams helping to shape everything from brands’ CSR initiatives and internal comms strategies to social media feeds and video content, we can do better in helping make the less visible, more so.

And looking inwardly, industry-wide LGBT+ networks like InterComms are vital - especially for employees at small or independent agencies that lack their own networks.

At the end of this month, the group is hosting a discussion with prominent lesbian, bisexual and transgender voices (including people of colour) - an event of some rarity within any industry, which I hope become more frequent.

Of course we’ve seen progress.

The OUTstanding list is cause for celebration, but also a moment to consider what must come next.

Matt Gurr is a senior account manager at Common Industry

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