The recent death of George Floyd has sparked outrage amongst us all, and has made each and every one of us question what we can do, both individually and within the companies we work for and with, to bring about change.
With the Black Lives Matter movement building momentum across the world, it’s important that we open up conversations about the need for an anti-racist stance in every sector of society, including PR and Comms.
It is no secret that the PR industry overall has a big diversity problem. Findings from our recent annual Salary Guide highlight the imbalance that exists:
In the CIPR State of the Profession 2019 Census, an even larger majority (92%) of practitioners classify themselves as white (compared to 88% in 2015); BAME practitioners represent only 8% of the industry.
These numbers speak for themselves. There's an immense amount of work to do, and even undo, to see complete equality in the industry and wider society. However, the global conversations taking place, sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, are inspiring outpours of unity and rapid moves towards overdue revolution.
It’s no small task, but where should the PR and Comms industry start in order to redress the balance?
We talked to Kuldeep Mehmi, Associate Director at Savills and trustee board member at The Taylor Bennett Foundation to gain first-hand insights into some of the issues around tackling the lack of diversity in the PR and Comms and how to go about changing the perception of the industry as a predominantly 'white sector'.
Kuldeep, who has recently been recognised in the EMpower Top 100 Ethnic Minority Future Leader Role Models 2020, has been championing diversity in the workplace for over eight years. He is passionate about raising awareness of the barriers to entry for ethnic minority groups and driving change.
Why is there still such a disproportionately low representation of BAME professionals in PR and Comms?
“You cannot underestimate the importance that senior BAME role models have in attracting and retaining talent. If you cannot see someone like you in the upper echelons of the industry that you work in then you can easily feel that those positions are out of reach for you.”
“When I graduated I had no idea what PR and Communications was. My parents still don’t understand. For them, and many others like them, to be successful in life they believed you had to either be a lawyer, doctor, engineer or accountant, and many still do. If BAME communities do not know what communications is, and that it is a viable career path, then how can you attract that talent? More needs to be done in broadening out education programmes to BAME communities, outreach to schools and paid work experience placements to make clear the opportunities available in the industry. And once we get them through the door we need to ensure our workplaces are inclusive and fair, and that the right initiatives and support is available to help progression into senior roles.”
Do you think the events of the past few weeks and the increased momentum around BLM will kickstart some much needed changes?
“I really do hope so. The conversations around the benefits of diversity in the workplace have certainly increased over my eight year career and we’ve seen studies from McKinsey and others stating the business case. I can’t think of a company that doesn’t have a diversity or BAME group, yet we are less diverse than five years ago. Let’s not use this as an excuse to have another conversation. Let’s see some action and tangible results!”
What do agencies and in-house comms teams need to do to make in-roads towards better diversity in PR and Comms?
“You must remember it isn’t going to be easy. It requires work. The companies that do it best have a clear strategy in place with senior leadership driving these initiatives. Additionally, companies need to be proactive in attracting diverse candidates. For me, it starts with schools and offering work experience opportunities, which are too often offered to clients or friends. We should also utilise tools such as social media, targeted ads and put more pressure on recruiters to present a shortlist of diverse candidates. Let’s no longer accept that the talent isn’t out there. The Taylor Bennett Foundation has proven that it is.”
The work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation is fantastic, opening doors to BAME PR and Comms professionals. In light of recent events, what’s next for the foundation?
“The Taylor Bennett Foundation is an incredible organisation, not only because it is the reason I am in PR today, but because they open doors many never knew even existed. The work the Foundation does changes people’s lives forever. We are always looking for support and we have just opened up the application for our mentoring programme which is designed to directly address the need for greater ethnic diversity in the Communications and PR industry. There are so many other ways to get involved so please do contact us for further information.”
Thank you, Kuldeep.
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