Opinion: Leader - IPR takes step in the right ethnic direction

Why should PR employers increase the proportion of their staff that come from ethnic minorities? That was the topic of debate this week when the IPR brought industry figures together to discuss the lack of ethnic diversity in the PR business.

The IPR's stated aim was relatively modest: to find itself an appropriate position in the debate somewhere between a tokenist bleat and a counter-productive harangue. It has taken some time to reach the stage that the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising was at several years ago. But guided by the only ethnic minority member of the IPR's board - consultant Ardi Kolah - its efforts even at this stage would best be described as 'better late than never'.

The overriding objective was to overcome the fact that while eight per cent of the population are from 'visible minorities' (30 per cent in London), in the PR business this figure is - estimated, because no hard data exists - in low single figures.

But despite the apparent universal buy-in for change, the debate returned relentlessly to why? The purpose cannot be to assuage white guilt. If greater diversity is to be engineered, it should only be the means to an end. The ultimate goal, brutally, is 'to make more money'. Employers need to be shown the value added to a company by greater diversity. The figure of £32bn ascribed to the 'brown pound' emerged again as the honeypot companies are missing out on.

And yet making the case solely on the basis of money implies that if all minority communities were dirt poor, there would be no imperative for change, because no money was being lost. This is a tricky subject, but the consensus was that the fight needs to be fought for both reasons.

First, because it is the right thing to do. And second, because the extent to which messages emanating from PR firms are rounded and compelling can be improved upon by having a more diverse group of people devising them.

Solutions may still be a distance away, but a start has been made, and Kolah and the IPR deserve your support as they try to create a new reality.

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