‘Half never promoted, 80 per cent report recognition bias’ – study shows career barriers black PR pros face

Nearly half of black comms professionals have never received a promotion, according to a study that highlights major career progression barriers holding back talent

Black PR professionals say they are not given the same career progression opportunities as white colleagues (Photo: Getty Images)
Black PR professionals say they are not given the same career progression opportunities as white colleagues (Photo: Getty Images)

The UK Black Comms Network, which polled more than 200 professionals of black or mixed heritage in July for its 'One step forward, two steps black' report, found that 48 per cent had never received an internal promotion.

A staggering 80 per cent of respondents believe recognition and promotion happens far less frequently for black communications professionals. Across the economy nationally, 31 per cent of black talent report less recognition and opportunities for promotion.

The findings, which excluded talent who had been in PR for less than a year, provides compelling evidence that black professionals are not presented with equal opportunities to white talent in an industry where the percentage of leaders who are black is in the very low single digits.

The study also reinforces the findings of the CIPR’s Race in PR report earlier this year and the urgent need for the industry to improve diversity and inclusion or face a talent drain.

It doesn't mean that black professionals are not receiving pay rises at all. The report found that in the past year, 45 per cent had a pay increase and 31 per cent had received a bonus. Check out futher findings on promotion and pay in current roles below.

However, black professionals believe their colleagues are twice as likely as them to receive recognition through promotions.

One in seven participants (14 per cent) had never received any recognition for their contributions in the workplace, while several reported having to train junior colleagues who subsequently became their manager.

An issue cited in the report was a lack of opportunities in client-facing roles, a point made recently by Rosenberg Communications consultant Sash Rosenberg, who suggested BME talent had been 'wheeled in' to make teams appear more diverse than they really were.

The barriers to promotion and recognition left only eight per cent of black talent believing it was highly likely that they could become the most senior communications professional in their organisation, with many leaving to set up their own shop.

“Hiring black’ is becoming a common phrase as agency leaders and hiring managers seek to redress the lack of ‘ethnic diversity’ in their teams. However the focus on numbers doesn’t address the issues and structures that mean current talent from African and Caribbean heritage is often overlooked,” said Kamiqua Pearce, chief executive of The UK Black Comms Network.

“There is little benefit in creating a more diverse talent pipeline if the talent is then bottlenecked. This leads to a brain drain, and is one of the reasons that the face of senior leadership teams has remained largely unchanged. We want to work with the wider industry and existing initiatives to ensure that more black talent is retained and able to thrive.” 

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