Last week, the CIPR announced its board for the coming year and the next day PRCA published its annual report. I won’t dress up my observation. Take a look at either the CIPR board or at the PRCA’s board of management and you’ll not see an ethnic minority.
In announcing its board, the CIPR said, “Board members represent the full spectrum of the UK’s public relations workforce…” Really? It’s depressing the CIPR believes that.
You might ask why this matters? It matters because these two organisations not only represent public relations, they also shape the profession’s conversations about itself. In fairness to the PRCA and CIPR, the majority of these positions are elected; they’re not in a position to appoint who they like (although the CIPR President co-opts two members).
At this point, we should recognise the progress PR has made on a number of diversity-related fronts.
Back in 2005, I was a small part of the Interns’ Network, a now defunct group that campaigned for paid internships. I even spent some of my then meagre marketing budget to host a parliamentary reception with w4mp to highlight the issue. Fast-forward six years to 2011 and the PRCA began asking agencies to commit to paying the minimum wage to interns, they’ve now got 189 agencies signed up. Since then, the PRCA has broadened the campaign and led the way on apprenticeships and a number of other initiatives. Its work has materially broadened PR’s intake and increased the pool of talent available to employers.
Specifically on ethnic diversity, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Creative Access have helped ethnic minority candidates begin their careers. Ignite, a now closed diversity in communications networking group, pushed for change and created a space where diversity could be discussed openly. Also, the CIPR’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum has been working to progress diversity on a number of fronts since 2009.
Access isn’t enough
All these initiatives have begun to make PR more diverse but my concern is that diversity seems limited to the lower rungs. There is a world of difference between access and progression. When you look at those managing agencies, for ethnic minorities role models are few and far between.
The work to widen access must continue, but alongside it we need to look at progression. If we don’t do that, a lot of the work around access will be undermined. You won’t attract the best if middle management’s the furthest they’ll reach.