PRCA launches Race and Ethnicity Equity Board and makes diversity pledge

The PRCA has created a board focused on accelerating the recruitment and progression of non-white professionals in the PR industry.

Barbara Phillips: 'Our mission is both immediate and long-term proportional racial equity within the industry'
Barbara Phillips: 'Our mission is both immediate and long-term proportional racial equity within the industry'

The industry body has also committed itself to having a more ethnically diverse board of directors.

The Race and Ethnicity Equity Board (REEB) will be led by strategic communications consultant Barbara Phillips. She has also joined the PRCA board of directors with immediate effect, becoming its only non-white member.

REEB's purpose is to ensure the PRCA, and the broader industry, adopts a "best practice approach to racial and ethnic equity".

The 13-strong board has been given 'standing committee' status within the PRCA. Unlike the organisation's other groups, standing committees report directly to the PRCA board and issues they raise are discussed at every board meeting.

REEB's goals include creating meaningful, equitable board representation; visible, equitable representation among senior decision-makers; and a psychologically ‘safe’ environment for black and ethnic-minority employees to succeed unimpeded.

It is also committed to reviewing ethnicity pay gaps and "correcting any disparities", and to financing steps to bring about "deep-seated and long-term culture change".

REEB is to oversee the update to the diversity module of the CMS Accreditation scheme and work with the PRCA to ensure event speakers and panellists reflect diverse audiences.

The PRCA said it would announce further changes to the composition of its board of directors "to ensure greater representation of black and ethnic-minority professionals" before its AGM in September. It promised to update on this by the end of July.

Phillips said: “I am delighted to accept the appointment of founding chair of the Race and Ethnicity Equity Board. As founding board members, our mission is to achieve both immediate and long-term proportional racial equity within the PR and communications industry.

"This starts with discontinuing the use of the term 'BAME', as it doesn’t accurately describe each community’s different lived experience.

“We appreciate and support the work being completed in our industry around diversity, but feel our work is best focused on race. This is where there is sustained damage and this is the aspect of our profession that needs singular attention if every black and racially diverse person who enters into the PR and communications industry is to enjoy an equitable opportunity to thrive and succeed unhindered.

"We applaud the PRCA for taking the necessary steps to diversify its board of directors, for committing to regular scrutiny, and for fully supporting the Race and Ethnicity Equity Board’s pivotal agenda.”

Cultural change

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: “We have spent the past few weeks listening to colleagues and hearing directly about the unacceptable levels of discrimination faced by black and ethnic-minority professionals in our industry.

“The truth is our board of directors has, until now, reflected the composition of our industry rather than our aspirations for it. I am grateful to Barbara and the founding members of REEB for their commitment to helping us achieve long-lasting and overdue cultural change in our industry.”

The PRCA Diversity Network will continue to exist and work on a number of aspects of diversity and inclusion, whereas REEB will focus specifically on ethnicity.

Rax Lakhani, chairman of the PRCA Diversity Network, said: “I fully welcome the PRCA establishing the new Race and Ethnicity Equity Board and am delighted to have been invited to be a member. Barbara and the other board members have already made great steps in tackling the many urgent issues that the PRCA needs to address around race and ethnicity on behalf of the wider PR and communications industry.”

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