RACE TIME: A useful starting point for equality in PR

It can only be good news that the CIPR has published research on black Asian and minority ethnic experience.

Commissioned almost 12-months ago and delayed by COVID-19 the Race in PR research lands at a time when equalities prompted by the death of George Floyd is in a long overdue.

The findings are stark.

Diversity has stalled and is reversing. In 2019, just eight per cent of PR people are from a diverse background a figure that had shrunk by three per cent in four years.

Not enough is being done. None of the 19 interviewed felt the industry is taking sufficient action to increase diversity.

Poor backgrounds. The research also showed that many people from minorities come from poorer backgrounds which is in itself a barrier to perceived ability to make connections and progress.

Independent. A poor experience has pointed people from minorities to become independent practitioners rather than proress up the corporate ladder.

Lack of fairness. Just six per cent said that ethnicities were treated fairly in the industry.

Unconscious bias. People often resort to stereotypes when they judge people which penalises people from minority backrounds.

Subtle digs. The report talks of ‘microaggressions’ which individually can be explained away but over time build-up. The unchallenged subtle racism of a client, for example.

“My dad had always said to me ‘Son, you’ll have to work twice as hard to get what the white man has got’. He wasn’t wrong! It certainly has felt like that in PR.”

Anonymous contributor, ‘race in pr’

Now, I approached this thinking I was the wrong person to be blogging about this. I’m a bloke and I’m white. After reading it, I still think I’m the wrong person but for different reasons. I’m not in a position of authority. But I do get that for things to change the whole industry needs to be prepared to change and that includes you and me.

Britain isn’t equal

During the #blacklivesmatters protests I was struck by a tweet from a campaigner thankin companies for their supportive tweet and then asking politely for a photograph of their senior leadership team to see how diverse that was.

But there is a big battle.

Britain is a place that hasn’t recovered from the Norman conquests and yes, I know they only occupied England and Wales. Norman names are 800 per cent more common at Oxford than the general population. Seventy per cent of the land is owned by 0.3 percent of the population. This is not an equal place.

It’s also a country that despite being rich in history buries it. Today, the leap is from the Tudors to the rise of fascism. I’m an English and History graduate. My knowledge of colonial Britain and slavery comes from reading around the subject not what I was taught in the classroom or in seminars.

In June 2020, at the height of protests race has never been higher as a priority but what happens when the news agenda changes and attention moves away? And what about gender equality? And equality for those from poorer backgrounds? They’re all part of the broader mix.

Can this be a start?

The research behind ‘Race in PR’ is based on 17 interviews with PR agency, in-house and independent practitioners. There appears to be no public sector involvement. I’d be keen too to know how geographically spread the interviewees are. That’s not to devalue the research. It’s hugely timely and a good starting point. But if we’re comms people we should be trying to get the best data possible and if 80 per cent of people in the UK live outside London I’d like to know what the picture there is too. If anything, I’d bet the problem is even worse in rural areas than in urban more diverse places.

But that quest for more data shouldn’t be an excuse for people in PR taking action and there are many steps are set out in the report and on the CIPR site. As the report says, what to do is pretty clear and set out. People just need to start to do it.

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1 Comment

  1. Good work Dan. We have to root out racism in PR. Huge issues for our industry re diversity more broadly too e.g disability, class etc.. And more hard questions: why are there a disproportionate number of people coming into the profession from private education backgrounds? Where are the correlations between ‘advantage’ and seniority etc?

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