We all need to tackle diversity in PR in 'defining year'

There is a lot more we can and must do to improve diversity in PR, and new guidelines will help the industry make a difference, says PRCA director-general Francis Ingham.

2018 will be a defining year for diversity in the PR and comms industry, argues Francis Ingham
2018 will be a defining year for diversity in the PR and comms industry, argues Francis Ingham

This will be a defining year for diversity in the PR and comms industry.

For several years, there has been a consensus that PR’s diversity and inclusion must improve. The issue has continued to be discussed at conferences and events, on blogs and in articles. Some organi­sations have also taken the lead in addressing this tricky issue within their structures by implementing new policies and changing their workplace culture. However, most of the industry is still unsure of how to tackle it.

The PR Census in 2016 shed light on the state of diversity in the industry. The workforce is 91 per cent white and 83 per cent British; women comprise 64 per cent of the industry, and the average gender pay gap is £9,111. Only two per cent of PR and comms practitioners consider themselves to have a disability.

The 2016 figures inspired the PRCA’s PR and Communications Council to act, making a pledge to improve diversity in the industry. As it is our duty to provide guidance on the issues that will have an impact on the industry’s ethical professionalism, we took this pledge seriously, and launched the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines last month.

Their role is to demystify this con­fusing and vital subject, and provide the industry with clear steps on how to improve diversity and inclusion.

The comprehensive guidelines examine the current state of diversity in the industry; outline the business case for improving it; and offer clear and manageable steps for making the workplace more diverse and inclusive.

There is an important moral argument to be made for improving diversity and inclusion, but there is also a strong business case – especially for PR and comms. Quite simply, if we want to communicate effectively with the public, we need to be more like the public.

There are a few key points that the industry should bear in mind when talking about diversity.

  • Implementing equality and monitoring policies should not be a box-ticking exercise. These policies should have senior buy-in and lead to a workplace culture that accommodates difference.

  • Diversity is often conflated with ethnic diversity, but we must also address issues such as geography, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability and mental health, to tackle the issue holistically.

  • Our recruitment practices must become fair and transparent to attract diverse candidates. Addressing our unconscious bias is key, but so is thinking about how we frame and place job ads.

  • There should be a stronger emphasis on flexible working, which can help to attract and retain staff from diverse backgrounds. It can also increase emp­loyees’ wellbeing. Flexible working practices should be offered to all employees, not just those in senior positions.

We are proud of the innovative work the industry is already doing to improve diversity. However, we can all agree that there is a lot more we can and must do.

The guidelines are a first step, but we are calling on the entire industry to get involved in our campaign. The industry cannot continue to grow and prosper if it is not representative of the people it speaks to and for.

Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director

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