Yesterday, Theresa May launched a consultation to determine whether mandatory reporting would help organisations address the imbalance, saying that employees from an ethnic minority can "feel they’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to career progression".
Only 3 per cent of employers currently measure their ethnicity and disability pay gap, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
However, there are industry figures that shed light on the extent of the problem in the PR and communications space.
The CIPR’s State of PR survey, which polled more than 1,500 PR professionals in 2016, revealed the mean salary for ethnic minorities is 13 per cent lower than other practitioners.
The proportion of ethnic minorities earning more than £100,000 is 1.3 percentage points lower than other professionals, while there is a far greater proportion (15.6 per cent) of ethnic minorities in the lowest pay bracket (0-£19,990) than other professionals (4 per cent).
"The pay gap facing BAME PR professionals is wholly unacceptable," said Avril Lee, chair of the CIPR’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum. "Lower levels of pay for ethnic minorities are a symptom of our industry’s failure to embrace diversity and inclusion.
Lee welcomed May’s plans for ethnicity pay gap reporting as a "positive step forward", but said it was critical PR firms removed the barriers that hold back employees from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.
'We need a multi-faceted strategy'
PRCA director general Francis Ingham said that the real value of pay gap reporting lay in the details, rather than the headline figures.
He added: "Legislation must resist attempts to simply describe the current situation and move the discussion towards what practical steps can be done to remove unjust barriers.
"Finally, this is a means to an end and not an end-point itself. Those concerned with fairness know that this has to be part of a consistent and multifaceted strategy for winning equality."
'Forget stats, we need solutions'
Not all PR leaders welcomed May's plans with open arms. BME PR Pros founder Elizabeth Bananuka told PRWeek the Prime Minister's announcement that employers ‘may’ be asked to report on the ethnicity pay gap "doesn’t deserve the column inches it’s getting".
"Anyone committed to diversity or working in recruitment and HR will know there is a BME pay gap and it is often substantially wider than the gender pay gap. This is not new information and the internet is awash with pay gap statistics," she said.
"The real story should be why in 2018 a gender pay gap and a BME pay gap even exist. Why are talented women and talented black, Asian and ethnic minority employees still paid less and given less opportunities to advance into senior roles. I really don’t need to see any more pay gap statistics. I need to see solutions."
In addition to the consultation, May also unveiled a Race at Work Charter in partnership with Business in the Community, with WPP UK country manager Karen Blackett OBE appointed race equality business champion.
WPP and Saatchi & Saatchi were the only marcomms agencies on the list at the time this article was published.