Last night’s PRWeek Diversity Distinction in PR Awards gala dinner at Pier 59 on the west side of Manhattan was once again an inspiring and important event.
Produced in conjunction with our partners at the PR Council, the people and atmosphere in the room suggested that real progress is being made in embracing true diversity within the PR industry.
As Porter Novelli’s Soon Mee Kim pointed out from the stage in her acceptance speech after picking up Diversity Champion PR Agency award, promoting diversity isn’t just the right thing to do, it also delivers major business benefits to organizations that champion it.
Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are one-third more likely to produce above-average profits than those in the bottom quartile. And companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are one-fifth more likely to overshoot profit targets than those in the bottom quartile.
There are many other similar surveys that demonstrate the benefits of diversity in the workplace, especially at senior levels, including ones from INSEAD business school, software platform Cloverpop, the University of Michigan, and many others.
It was telling that many winners on stage and executives in the room could trace their inspiration back to The Lagrant Foundation's inspirational founder Kim Hunter, which is why we included him as one of the most influential PR pros of the last two decades as part of PRWeek's 20th anniversary celebrations in the U.S.
The truth is that change is coming now, whether senior leaders in the industry like it or not.
It was poignant that the gala dinner took place on the same day as the Kavanaugh Hearing in Washington, DC that captivated the whole country.
Because of this, guest of honor and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke wasn’t able to attend. She quite naturally felt it was much more important for her to be with her people and fighting the good fight in DC rather than accepting an award at a glitzy ceremony in Manhattan.
On The PR Week podcast, SKDKnickerbocker partner Hilary Rosen, a co-founder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, put the day in context.
"Many of us woke up this morning thinking the stakes couldn't have been higher," she said. "I've spent so much time on this sexual harassment/sexual assault issue over the past year, and in many ways I felt the entire Time's Up/#MeToo movement was on trial."
But the atmosphere in the room showed women, and especially women of color, were galvanized and ready to "fight the patriarchy" in a bid to get equal treatment at work and elsewhere.
"Things are changing," added Rosen on our podcast. "The patriarchy that objectifies and dismisses women is toppling. We're not going back."
In terms of ethnic diversity, initiatives from PR firms including Porter Novelli, Finn Partners, Egami Group, and MWWPR, and in-house teams from Carnival and HP, lit up the Diversity Awards audience having previously captured the jury’s attention at PRWeek Towers.
There’s still a long way to go. We could probably do with fewer middle-aged white men on stage accepting diversity awards to be honest. But there was enough optimism and inspiration in the room to make me think there are finally welcome signs ahead as the industry bids to eradicate diversity imbalances in the PR sector.