OPINION: IMPROVING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN PR
Fresh from launching the PRCA’s ethical professionalism campaign and its diversity and inclusion guidelines, Francis Ingham suggests how the communications industry can continue on the path to diversification and true ethical professionalism
How often do you give thought to the ethics and the professionalism of the work that you do every day?
The PRCA has launched a year-long campaign focused on #ethicalprofessionalism, to show how the association can help the PR and communications industry to improve its ethical and professional credentials. Our aim is to celebrate the industry’s strong commitment to ethics but to also demonstrate how the industry can improve its professional standing. In recent years, I have witnessed a significant change in our industry’s attitude towards ethics, with a greater emphasis since last September when the Bell Pottinger issue hit front pages.
However, one element is often overlooked in diversity and inclusion. Improving diversity and inclusion throughout the industry should not be an afterthought, nor a nice-to-have. It is a serious ethical issue that the industry needs to address. Simply put, we cannot communicate to a diverse audience if we do not hire diverse employees and create inclusive workplaces.
Furthermore, the results of the PR Census in 2016 highlighted that we can no longer ignore these issues. The industry is 91% white and 83% British. 64% of the industry is made up of women but the gender pay gap in 2016 was £9,111. In addition, only 2% of PR and communications practitioners consider themselves to have a disability. The PRCA is launching the PR and Communications Census 2018 in May and we hope it will reignite the industry’s interest in this important issue.
We appreciate that talking about this issue can be daunting and uncomfortable, especially for small businesses. This is why we provide resources to make diversity and inclusion a priority. First, we introduced the diversity module in the PRCA Communications Management Standard audit. It is clear to us that diversity should be a business priority rather than a secondary concern.
We then launched the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines last month to demystify the issue and provide the industry with clear and manageable steps to making the workplace more diverse and inclusive.
The recommendations in the report range from offering flexible working practices and reforming recruitment practices to make them more fair and transparent, to offering paid and structured internships and apprenticeships and monitoring diversity metrics.
To illustrate the recommendations in the report, we highlighted the work of organisations such as Golin, which created an internship programme to help tackle rising housing costs for those starting out their career in London. We also featured Dynamo PR’s name-blind recruitment drive, the first initiative of its kind in the industry. Similarly, Cicero introduced unconscious bias training to ensure its recruitment process was more fair and transparent. Finally, Forster Communications introduced a series of initiatives that focused on employee wellbeing which earned it an award for being the healthiest workplace in Britain.
These organisations prove that the industry is capable of taking this issue seriously. We commend them and hope this will encourage others to prioritise diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
We recognise that the industry has come a long way and is more open to discussing the issue and looking at ways to address it. Some organisations are even leading by example. However, we also recognise that there is a lot more that we can and should do to ensure the industry is representative of the nation.
Above all, if the industry is committed to #ethicalprofessionalism then it must be serious about improving diversity and inclusion.
Francis Ingham is director general of the PRCA