January 31, 2014
As the PR profession grows in size and influence, it is increasingly important for PR firms and corporate communications departments to stand as a reflection of the diverse clients, audiences and communities that they serve.
Diversity benefits our profession in several ways:
Judith Harrison, senior vice president of staffing and diversity and inclusion of Constituency Management Group, and a PRSA Foundation Board Trustee, advises that the best way to increase diversity within the workforce is to “make a strong business case, create management accountability and build widespread engagement. Diversity and inclusion is a shared commitment across functions, levels and demographic groups.”
Statistics show that our profession lags far behind the nation in its diversity. The United States Department of Labor states that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. PR professionals are African-American or Hispanic, versus 30 percent of the U.S. population. And this number will grow to 50 percent by the year 2050.
And the pipeline of diverse students entering the profession is not good either. University PR programs across the country continue to struggle with diversity in their student bodies, while the overall student community reflects a much more diverse population.
As a professional working diligently to improve diversity within her company, Monica Talan, executive vice president of corporate communications and public relations for Univision Communication, and a PRSA Foundation Board Trustee, says, “Increasing diversity is easier said than done and requires a concentrated effort. One must start by investing in programs that create a pipeline of diverse candidates as well as partner with organizations focused on building the next generation of professionals with diverse backgrounds. Once individuals are hired, there should be programs in place to help them succeed as well as opportunities that allow them to excel in their areas of interest.”
Many agencies and corporate communications departments are enacting action plans for creating a more diverse workforce within their organizations, but this has proven to be difficult. Employers not only face the challenge of recruitment, but more important, they must also discover what drives minorities to pursuing careers in certain industries.
There are many different ideas on how to increase diversity within the workplace, but a consistent complaint is that public relations as a profession needs to become more attractive to more diverse groups. The more people realize how important public relations is for all aspects of corporate culture, the more individuals of all backgrounds will pursue careers in it.
We must endeavor to become champions of our field, communicating how we help organizations, corporations, governments and individuals thrive in today’s rapidly evolving social culture. We need to do this by leveraging digital media and teaching students, early on, about the impact that public relations can have on their lives and the lives of others.
Then, after communicating the intrinsic value that public relations provides and attracting the highest level of talent, we must also foster and nurture these young diverse professionals through mentoring programs.
Sonia Sroka, executive vice president and group head of multicultural marketing at Edelman, and a PRSA Foundation Board Trustee, agrees.
“Minorities are less likely to go into marketing, public relations and advertising careers because often they aren’t even aware that these careers exist,” she says.
“Therefore, it is imperative to provide a welcoming environment and mentor them to succeed.”
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