Today, FuturePRoof has published my analysis showing that the PR industry is further behind on ethnic minority representation than it believes. I’ve tried to construct and present that analysis in a dispassionate and reasoned way. But here I’d like to outline why I think the lack of diversity, in all its forms, needs addressing.
At the heart of the analysis lies a simple assumption: that no ethnic group has a greater proportion of creative or talented people. In the wider context of diversity, I’d extend that to say that regardless of its wealth, sexual orientation or gender, no group of people are more creative or talented than another. This is an assumption I strongly believe to be true.
If you gather a group of industry leaders together, you’ll hear the same refrains about the lack of talent. Talk to awards judges and they’ll lament the paucity of truly creative campaigns.
Despite this, dataset after dataset reveals that we continue to hire from the same tiny strata of society. Let’s take graduates as an example. The industry tends to look for graduates from redbrick universities. We compete with Goldman Sachs and Clifford Chance and Accenture and almost every other business out there to fight for the attention of this tiny group. We fight for newly minted classicists, economists and historians.
And yet there are a group of people for whom ‘Classics’ is a type of shoe. This group has creative and talented people but they’re not travelling along the formal education channels that we use as a proxy for talent. So we ignore them.
That ignored group contains award-winning campaigns that will never happen. Ideas that could, but won’t, transform companies and countries. Words that would sell millions of products, if only their creator was given the chance.
But we’ll never see any of this. Because we do things the way we always have. Because we want to get the best we can of the group everyone’s fighting for (except when we’re hiring friends’ kids or clients’ nieces and nephews).
To me, the need for diversity is not primarily about ethics. It is about getting the best, most creative talent. Looking at the skewed demographic structure of the industry, it’s not surprising we complain about a lack of creativity. We’re not hiring the best talent.