It's an issue that's been lingering around the PR and communications industry, like that last (pre Covid19) dinner party guest who just won't budge. You want to tell them to go home and drink their own wine, but you are far too polite and don't want to cause offence or damage the friendship. It's as if they are purposely ignoring your subtle hints, and now, exhausted, you have no alternative but to say... please go home.
This is where we are in our industry. And the 2020 Census proves it. Decades of skirting around the main reason why numbers of Black and Asian recruits to our industry remain relentlessly low have brought us to the point where we too need to call it out as: racist cultures, systemically racist practices and of course plain racists.
Read the 2020 PRCA PR and Communications Census here.
Who are we talking about? - Well it's not BAME
With mainly 1% and the occasional 2% (Indian and mixed White Asian) of represented communities, a one-size-fits-all BAME recruitment campaign has failed and will continue to fail. We need to address each community slightly differently and include approaches that are culturally sensitive. We need to reach groups through their familiar networks and look well beyond the usual recruiter contacts - who only seem to offer you more of the same. It's interesting that with all of the challenges of 2020, it's the 'other White' group who seem to be making headway in greater representation.
I think many industry leaders are now ready to admit these numbers are down to (in part) our cultures and practises. The most pressing being the very existence of an ethnicity pay gap. PRCA REEB has produced a guide to help you to start where you are and enable you to take action.
Imagine, you battle your way through a pre interview process where you are unlikely to meet any people who aren't White. You apply for a senior role, but the assumption from the interviewer is you must have come for the junior role. You are made to jump through a couple of extra hoops (to be sure). Then you start your role and discover, because of the pandemic, you are taking an (up to) 18% pay cut, compared to your White colleagues. Sadly, this is not an imaginary scenario.
We know we are better than these latest statistics. We are the ones who convince and cajole our client's customers and audiences to engage with products and services because they identify with a narrative. What narrative do these latest stats tell? Currently the PR and communications narrative in regard to ethnic diversity is one that urgently needs re-writing. We already have a great deal of qualitative information and the latest numbers are in and they are shocking. Let's refresh our industry's reputation among diverse groups and make the changes that welcomes everyone to an industry that, if you stay, can offer the most amazing experiences.
Barbara Phillips is Chair of PRCA REEB Race & Ethnicity Equity Board. REEB offer consultancy and advisory services around race and ethnicity equity. Please contact Koray Camgoz for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org.