For a second year, PRWeek is backing the initiative that aims to increase the number of PR professionals from ethnic minorities in top UK roles. Eighteen senior industry figures from BME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds have agreed to be mentors this time, up from 15 in 2018.
BME comms professionals can apply to receive the benefit of the mentors’ experience and expertise to boost their careers. The scheme is organised by BME PR Pros, an organisation founded by comms consultant Elizabeth Bananuka, in conjunction with PRWeek UK.
Financial Times comms executive Yarohey Secka took part last year. She was matched with mentor Perveen Akhtar, head of comms at Dolby Europe.
"The support I’ve received... has driven me to explore greater goals," Secka says. "The power of mentoring should never be underestimated. Providing early to mid-career BAME talent with opportunities is important, as is connecting them with BAME professionals who can share advice on how to survive and thrive... Schemes like this will help the design of future leadership teams."
Dynamo PR account executive Krish Jeyakumar, who was mentored by Riot Communications MD Preena Gadher, praises the "incredible experience". "Working in such a whitewashed industry, you’d be surprised the difference it makes to actually connect with another person of colour in the sphere – especially one who’s made it to the top. It was both reassuring and inspiring."
Madano account executive Hoda Awad, who was matched with Milltown Partners’ senior analyst Max Kalu, says: "Throughout the scheme I’ve been provided with excellent support and guidance,and I’m delighted to hear that it will be running again. I encourage everyone to get their applications in as this has been a truly invaluable experience."
One new mentor for 2019, Manifest senior campaign manager Julian Obubo, says:"As BMEs in PR, we have a collective responsibility to engineer practical changes with in the industry and reframe how outsiders perceive PR as a profession.
"Becoming a mentor is one way of fulfilling this responsibility. I have worked closely with BME PR Pros over the last year and I’ve been encouraged by its solutions-based approach to tackling the issue of underrepresentation and exclusion of BMEs in PR. I’m looking forward guiding the mentees and introducing them to a wider network of professionals that they can come to for advice or assistance."
Indy Selvarajah, creative director at Edelman Deportivo, adds: "The truth is if you walk into any agency right now there is a huge disparity in the number of minorities to those from Caucasian backgrounds. It is incredibly important for those wanting to break into PR and advertising that they can see someone in a senior position ‘like them’. The saying ‘you can’t be it if you can’t see it’ has never been more prevalent."
Meanwhile, That Lot creative director David Levin highlights some personal (unfounded) anxiety in the early stages: that "as a reasonably light-skinned mixed-race guy who tends to get confused for a Mexican or a white person with a tan, I felt slightly like I didn’t deserve to be there".
"Ironically, it’s exactly that mindset that needs tackling if we want to improve diversity and equality in our industry," he adds. "Which we do. So I intend to get over those anxieties and attempt to make a difference to someone’s career."
• Maria Shum, director and entrepreneur
• Roopa Ramaiya, head of PR, North West Europe, Zendesk
• Sophie Parker, global associate director, Talk.Global
• Chinedu Udezue, director, Burson Cohn & Wolfe
• Lang Xiao, founder/director, ARTouch Consulting
• Myriam Khan, associate manager – corporate communications, Ketchum
• David Levin, creative director, That Lot
• Claire Quansah, operations director, Havas PR
• Dev Mistry, internal communications executive, Virgin Media Business
• Addy Frederick, senior corporate communications manager, Bupa
• Billie Dee Gianfrancesco, head of PR, Vardags
• Sarita Shah, senior associate, Weber Shandwick
• Shamima Begum, group manager, EMEA communications, Adobe
• Reesha Rajani, commercial director, Golin
• Effie Kanyua, director PR and communications, Hearst UK
• Kristian Hoareau Foged, senior insights analyst, Text100
• Indy Selvarajah, creative director, Edelman Deportivo
• Julian Obubo, senior campaign manager, Manifest LDN
Elizabeth Bananuka, founder, BME PR Pros
The BME PR Pros/PRWeek UK Mentoring Scheme has a mentor to support black, Asian and ethnic minority professionals in a range of comms roles and at every stage of their career.
From rising star Dev Mistry, the perfect mentor for a recent graduate needing support to navigate the world of work and this crazy sector, to incredible business minds like Reesha Rajani and Claire Quansah, the perfect mentors for future agency MDs and owners.
From an award- winning creative director to a couple of PRWeek 30Under30, from internal comms experts to social-media stars. From Coutts to Bupa, Weber to Ketchum, Google to Johnson & Johnson, they bring a wealth of client, agency and in-house experience.
The mentors, as before, are a fiercely talented group, passionate about diversity and keen to support talented BME PR Pros. Securing a place on the scheme doesn’t just give mentees access to incredible support, they join the BME PR Pros community; a positive, friendly, ambitious force for good. I’d urge BME PR pros to apply.
Visit bmeprpros.co.uk for a link to the form. The closing date for applications is Friday 15 February 2019.