Diversity Through the Lens of Gen Z
As communicators, we are the storytellers. It’s our role to further an organization’s goals by shaping its narrative with key publics, which requires telling diverse stories that build understanding, foster inclusion and inspire action. Most of us have learned this responsibility on the job.
Tomorrow’s PR leaders, on the other hand, are entering the workforce with a strong commitment to action and a heightened sense of understanding and urgency that will lead to continued change.
To see how these future communicators are approaching diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as we enter a new year, we asked for insights from Dieter Tirado Núñez, director of the PRSSA Student Chapter at the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru; Natalie Cerrillo, PRSSA co-president at the University of Colorado; and Ashleigh Kathryn, recent graduate of the University of Florida, PRSSA 2018-2019 president and a junior associate at Weber Shandwick in Dallas.
Embracing perspectives on DE&I
These emerging leaders agreed that instilling a sense of belonging forms the core of DE&I. Diversity and inclusion mean embracing people from different backgrounds and creating an environment in which every person has the same rights, can feel welcome and safe, and is able to thrive regardless of their background, identity or ethnicity.
“I strongly believe that it’s important to value and accept every person as they are,” Tirado Núñez said.
Maintaining a personal and professional commitment
For these new and aspiring professionals, prioritizing DE&I is a personal responsibility that involves education and continued growth. There is always more to learn and do. They realized that they won’t always be perfect, but that it is important to keep trying.
“I value DE&I in my personal life because, as I make connections with others from different backgrounds, I learn new points of view,” Cerrillo said.
Their personal commitment will influence how these future PR professionals lead in their organizations. They know the public is diverse and can’t all be reached in the same way. They also understand that the diverse public must be represented in an organization’s decision-making. People with diverse experiences offer perspectives that add value.
Kathryn said she tries to empower her work community by joining one of Weber Shandwick’s DE&I subcommittees that foster a culture of belonging.
Looking to the future
This emerging generation of communicators foresees a future in which teams are more diverse and inclusive than ever before. They expect PRSA and PRSSA will continue to lead dialogue and action in the profession. They are optimistic and expect to help reshape workforce cultures. They know it won’t be easy, but they are up for the challenge.
Advice for Today's PR Pros
“DE&I is a must-do in today’s society. People are seeking companies and industries that can accept them as they are. Everyone has the right to be heard, respected and treated equally. PR leaders must be those who promote the acceptance of anyone and be the first to lead by example. There is nothing better than having a work environment with people of different thoughts and origins and who share the same vision: to build a better society every day. That’s what diversity and inclusion is all about.” — Dieter Tirado Núñez
“There is still more work to be done. It’s critical to continue conversations about social matters in order to learn and educate others. In the world of public relations and as communications professionals, our voices are essential in bringing about change within our organizations.” — Natalie Cerrillo
“Step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to grow. Educate yourself, try something new and have conversations. Even the hard ones! And know that Gen Z and new talent expect DE&I to be a business priority and not just a second thought. It’s honestly a deal-breaker for most now.” — Ashleigh Kathryn