I was pleased that I went along to the inaugural meeting of the PRCA’s new Diversity Group last night. It was, apparently and rather sadly, the third time such a meeting had been held, previous efforts to keep the diversity initiative alive having faded away.
Of course, in 2017 such a group shouldn’t be needed at all. PR should be blind to ethnicity, gender and sexuality when recruiting, should welcome and accommodate disability. Back in the real world, and especially in the agency sector, we’re very white and very middle class, we prefer not to talk about mental illness and only think about the cost of adapting the office environment to cope with disability, not the benefits.
I don’t think this is necessarily conscious discrimination on behalf of agency managers and recruiters. It seems more like ingrained behaviour. We hire “people like us” because it seems to work “in an agency like ours”.
So why change? Well if arguments about common decency, fairness, the good of society and it being the right thing to do don’t move you, then perhaps business benefits will. While I don’t fully buy the argument that says you have to have a diverse team to create work which will appeal to a diverse audience, I do think that an agency’s creativity – its lifeblood – is greatly enriched by people with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experience.
It would be a start to have a wider pool of candidates to recruit from. There was a suggestion last night that parents in the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities don’t know what PR is and are unlikely to steer their kids towards a career in it. In my experience, that applies to parents of all kinds, who if anything, have AbFab and Max Clifford as their industry touchpoints.
There is clearly much to do, but if the CIPR and PRCA could get their collective acts together, it should be possible to convince the employees of tomorrow, in all communities, that there is a potential place in PR for them.
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