Pay gaps: We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and put our money where our mouth is

We asked agencies what they consider to be the biggest barriers to closing their ethnicity and/or gender pay gaps. Here are some of their responses.

Pay gaps: We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and put our money where our mouth is


We currently have no women and no people of colour at partner level. This needs to change and we’re working on it. And in the meantime, we work hard to ensure that by level there is no ethnic or gender pay gap and beyond that, we’re working from the ground up to ensure that more people of colour get into the industry and – more importantly – are supported to ensure they thrive, grow and advance.

Manifest UK

The biggest recruiting agencies do not have strong enough relationships with BAME professional networks. This limits the hiring opportunities, especially at a senior level (where the effect on the pay gap is more pronounced). It is arguable that senior BAME professionals are usually more comfortable in their positions, having seen the problems with discrimination and systemic racism at other agencies or companies. This might make them less likely to move.

“The CIPR’s 2020 Race in PR report found a public relations industry in which BAME practitioners tell of racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases faced, and having to work within an inflexible culture that denies them opportunities and fair progression. An industry with these shortcomings is unlikely to nourish BAME talent that will progress to senior levels. Senior leaders within the industry must take these findings seriously and develop long-term strategies for course correction.

WDW Entertainment

When we have advertised job openings historically on our social channels or by word of mouth, most applicants have been white. The biggest challenge in the past has been the pipeline of talent. However, since working with Creative Access, this has changed exponentially. We have been blown away by the candidates they have put forward to us and have been thrilled with the hires they have facilitated. We will continue to work with them, they are a fantastic resource and we are truly grateful for their passion and support.


Lansons has never had a significant issue over gender pay because we have always had a roughly similar balance between men and women at all levels. We continue to attract and recruit senior women so we believe that we will be able to maintain this. On ethnicity, we, like the industry, have two challenges: the proportion of people of colour in our business, which we are aiming to increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, and the proportion of people of colour at senior level. We don’t really have an ethnicity pay gap; we have fewer senior people of colour than we should have. We are addressing this.


The biggest challenge is the lack of ethnically diverse senior talent across the industry, as well as the significant gender imbalance in some of the sectors we operate in, such as public affairs and STEM.

Bottle PR

The biggest challenge for closing the ethnicity gap is the skill set individuals offer; as we use a structured recruitment process, the candidate who has been selected purely on their individual skill set regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. We already employ a diverse range of individuals.

PrettyGreen & The Producers

The biggest challenge for the industry is in ensuring fair practice and ‘doing not talking’, which means being open about the jobs to be done, as this is a long-term commitment to change, which requires a conscious effort throughout the entire business. In a fast-paced industry that is constantly balancing the demands of clients and servicing levels, it requires board support and investment for long-term reward.

“We know we can do more and our focus in 2021/22 is on client and supplier principles, initiatives and commitments. We recognise that PrettyGreen and the industry are under-represented from a number of areas including gender, ethnicity, education, disability and LGBTQ, and will continue to activate initiatives to encourage diversity within our organisation and effecting change through client work.

Eskenzi PR

We proactively recruit with a positive bias to race and gender to promote equality; it is sometimes harder to find talent at more senior levels from certain ethnic groups in the UK, which can make it harder to close the gap regardless of your recruitment policy.” Forster Communications.

“The industry as a whole has a diversity problem, in that there are relatively few BAME background candidates across the board, but especially at a higher level (AD and above). How we improve access to jobs is our biggest challenge, but one that the industry as a whole has a responsibility to address.”

Forster Communications

The industry as a whole has a diversity problem, in that there are relatively few BAME background candidates across the board, but especially at a higher level (AD and above). How we improve access to jobs is our biggest challenge, but one that the industry as a whole has a responsibility to address.

Third City

Recruitment is the biggest challenge: the CVs we receive at account manager and above are predominantly from female, white individuals. We have spent the past three years actively recruiting BME colleagues via Taylor Bennett and other specialist recruiters. We also struggle to recruit male junior staff. The CVs we receive at PR trainee-level are predominantly from female, white individuals. This is an ongoing challenge that we are constantly trying to address.

Kindred Agency

The industry had a diversity problem, and it starts at attracting minority talent to careers in comms, and ends at making that talent feel welcome, included, fairly treated, and given opportunities to progress and lead. We’ve previously struggled to find candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds (and, particularly at a junior level, male talent). We recognised this and started working with diversity and inclusion specialists We Are Stripes to inform our strategy and review all our practices to ensure we have an equitable, welcoming environment for all staff.

“We’ve recently worked with networks such as UK Black Comms, Taylor Bennett Foundation and Creative Mentor Network to advertise roles and attract talent from non-traditional backgrounds to the agency. It’s imperative we – as an industry – stop talking about the ‘diversity’ issue and start taking action, and putting money where our mouth is, to commit to fixing the problem.

“We’re currently reviewing our work experience/placement practices to ensure that when we relaunch them later this year, we’re doing something that doesn’t just benefit us as an agency, but is a valuable learning opportunity for people from ethnic minorities, those from outside London, and those who aren’t degree-educated.

Finn Partners

The biggest challenge is recruitment. The industry needs to do more to explain the opportunities that a career in public relations can offer to people from all backgrounds. We feel that the PRCA Apprenticeship scheme is a really important tool in promoting career opportunities in PR and media to a wider community.


The reality is that people of colour do not receive the same opportunities as their white counterparts. Women do not receive the same opportunities as men. The pay gap is real, but it’s one element of a wider, systemic problem. Only once the industry starts to own and act on that, can meaningful and lasting change be created.p>

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