The lack of racial diversity in the PR industry

Published: 11 June 2021

This week’s guest blog feature is by Ilyana Rajwani, a Public Relations and Communications Management Graduate from Solent University. Ilyana’s blog is such an important read and I hope you find it useful. We still have a long ay to go before there is fair representation in the PR industry but I know with high flying graduates like Ilyana, things are about to change. 


The lack of racial diversity in the PR industry

Having just finished my 10,000-word dissertation on this topic, you would think writing on this topic further would be the last thing on my mind.

However, this topic is not written, discussed or highlighted enough in the communications industry and, as a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) PR professional, I feel responsible to start the conversation on this ongoing issue and want to use this blog to express my passion for this subject. 

First of all, here are some statistics to break down this complex issue. According to the CIPR in 2020, 92% of PR professionals in the UK described themselves as White. Similarly, Chitkara states that the ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 87.9% White. 

The question on most people’s minds is why is this happening? Although there are endless reasons, to keep it short and sweet I have chosen two dominant reasons from what I have researched.

Racism and racial stereotyping in the workplace

Although this may sound obvious, this reason is paramount and greatly affects BAME PR practitioners in their daily working lives. Racism in the workplace can be formal, informal and subtle. It can be expressed via microaggressions, racial biases, stereotyping and more. For example, a study conducted by the University of Oxford in 2019 revealed that ethnic minority groups must send 60% more applications to receive as many callbacks as the majority group. This could be seen as an example of CV name discrimination and thus racial bias being practised. 

Regarding the UK PR industry, a CIPR report published in 2020, highlights that BAME practitioners feel they must work harder than everyone else and that they are left out of certain tasks and prevented from working on prestigious accounts. Also, it is claimed that BAME employees are appointed racialized positions and are only hired for managing diversity within an organisation or for PR roles where communication is needed with minority consumers. Due to this, BAME PR practitioners feel as if they are the “token” ethnic minority professional who is forced to represent an entire racial or ethnic group. 

To conclude, these factors may force PR practitioners to quit their jobs or prevent them from applying for a role in communications causing a lack of racial diversity. 

Unaware of the benefits of a racially inclusive PR team

Multiple studies have shown that diversity leads to more creative teams and increases a company’s bottom line, with inclusive teams making better business decisions 87% of the time. So why are racially inclusive teams not being utilised in the PR industry? 

Research by Ramaswani 2018 states that minority candidates see the world differently and thus can use their diverse backgrounds and experiences to provide unique insights into what drives customer behaviour, purchasing decisions, and brand loyalty among key audiences. This is also known as cognitive diversity which has been recognised as a major benefit for any business. In my opinion, BAME audiences can only be communicated effectively if strategies are used that make sense to them. In other words, strategies proposed by BAME PR practitioners due to the similar experiences they share. Do you agree with my thoughts? 

What can you do to promote racial inclusion in your workplace?

If you work in communications and have noticed a lack of racial diversity at your place of work, perhaps suggest The Blueprint initiative to your organisation. This initiative promotes BAME diversity in PR and comms through online content, mentoring schemes and events. Lastly, simply having diversity and inclusion talks and workshops could help drive a conversation and promote action. 

I hope you learned something new from reading this blog and please comment down below your thoughts on this matter and ways your organisation promotes racial diversity! 

For more information on the lack of racial diversity in PR check out this link: 

Feel free to contact me on twitter @ilyanarajwaniPR or drop me a message on LinkedIn if you want to know more about racial diversity in PR and to get this conversation going!

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