'Future membership of PRCA may be dependent on diversity credentials'

Membership to the industry's trade body could soon be dependent on an agency's diversity credentials, according to the PRCA's diversity chair.

The roundtable event in London
The roundtable event in London

Unconscious bias, measurement and workplace practices were among the key issues discussed at the PRCA LGBTQ+ roundtable event.

Professionals from across PR, public affairs and the media joined the chair of the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ network, managing partner at WeAreFearless Katie Traxton, for a frank discussion on how the industry can improve visibility, representation and how to make the industry a safe space for LGBTQ+ professionals.

Rax Lakhani, a consultant and PRCA diversity chair, said: "Diversity is often being looked at through the wrong lens; you need to represent and include all voices or it’s going to be our eulogy."

Lakhani said the comms industry needed to move away from large categorisations of people in homogenous groups.

"It’s not always malicious, but there’s unconscious bias," he added. "it’s about understanding what it’s like to be the other."

Lakhani said the trade body could get to a point in the future where membership was dependent on diversity and inclusion credentials (see a video of round table below).

Julian Tooke, global director product integration at YouGov, said he thought that greater measurement of communities will bring greater accountability.

"People will take shortcuts with what that brand is about, so unconscious bias training seems to be a starting point," he said.

On training, Stonewall head of media Jeff Ingold explained: "It’s more about looking at homophobic and transphobic language and what its like in the workplace, and how they transition into workplace policies."

Ingold said more visibility in the media doesn’t necessarily make the community feel safe, and the group discussed the backlash against Marks and Spencer’s LGBT sandwich and the more recent furore over the rainbow poppy.

Consultant Katrina Marshall thought there needs to be a cultural shift that was about acceptance and compassion.

"There are people who speak without malice or forethought… give people permission to make mistakes," she added. 

Most of the group agreed that it seemed to be those outside of the community trying generate outrage and debate.

Lakhani said the PRCA needed to get involved in the conversation and challenge stereotypes, while Traxton said the PRCA was determined to "put markers in the sand" on this issue.

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