Image courtesy of wikimedia

PR has a diversity and inclusion perception and reality gap

As Chair of the CIPR Diversity & Inclusion Forum I welcome the profession-wide monitoring of key diversity and inclusion data each year. We will only know the reality of the state of our profession if we continue to ask the right questions and encourage a culture of sharing.

The arguments for greater diversity and better workplace inclusion have been well rehearsed, so it is heartening to see that the overwhelming majority of survey respondents agree. When asked are campaigns more effective delivered by teams who are ethnically, socially and culturally diverse, 59%, 73% and 71% respectively agree. This marks a definite and positive shift in perception from 2016, when the same question yielded much lower results: 51% for ethnically diverse teams, 68% for socially diverse teams and 64% for culturally diverse teams.

Yet, when we look at the demographics, the results show a gap between perception and reality. In 2016, there were 88% of respondents identifying as White, this year it has gone up to 90%. And while this may be explained by the removal of the international options, the survey shows that the percentages of Black and Asian practitioners have decreased slightly, widening the gap. There were no significant shifts in the results on sexual orientation, but the numbers of disabled practitioners declaring a disability has gone up by 2% since 2016.

If we look to religious belief, the results are only subtly different. Overall with the exceptions of Christianity, no religion, Sikhism and those who prefer not to say the results have stayed the same. The number of Christians rose from 41 to 45 %, the number of Sikhs dropped from 1% to 0%, those with no religious belief dropped from 44 to 42% and those preferring not to disclose dropped from 8 to 6%. More respondents feel able to declare their religious belief than in 2016, but overall the results are out of sync with national data which indicates for example 4.8% of the UK population are Muslim and only 2% of PR practitioners identify as being Muslim (consistent year on year).

For the first time, PR professionals were asked a question about their mental health. With only one year of data, it is difficult to draw any significant conclusions from the results. According to mental health experts, one in four of us will experience mental ill-health at some point over the course of a year. However, the State of the Profession survey indicates that 90% of us do not experience mental ill-health, and that only 6% do.

For the last 2 years the Diversity & Inclusion Forum has run an event during Mental Health Awareness Week in May. We had very high attendance at both events, and the personal stories that were shared on the evening would indicate that mental ill-health, which includes stress, anxiety and depression, is far more widespread than the survey figures suggest.

While I welcome the insights gained from the State of the Profession survey, what is lacking is the volume of UK-wide data needed to be able to make more accurate analysis of diversity and inclusion in PR.

We need to follow the example set by other professions such as the legal profession and openly benchmark our diversity and inclusion data. To become more diverse and inclusive, which the overwhelming majority of us believe results in better campaigns, we first must understand that we aren’t. The perception is that diversity and inclusion are important to our profession. The reality is we still have a way to go to achieve it.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

Catherine Grinyer

Catherine is Director of Big Voice Communications, a specialist inclusive communications consultancy advising how to ensure your communications reach the widest possible audience. Chair of CIPR’s Diversity Working Group and a member of the PRCA’s Diversity Network, Catherine was previously Director of Communications at Business Disability Forum for 7 years; leading an award-winning rebrand in 2012. 

Posted in Diversity, Editor's Picks, Public Relations
One comment on “PR has a diversity and inclusion perception and reality gap
  1. Karen White says:

    A great article, which flags what we all know to be an endemic problem in the communications industry. As you know many people are scared of speaking out – either to admit the harm caused or identify themselves as victims. In times of political and economic uncertainty those with obvious differences stand out and can be soft targets for those ignorant enough to have racist views. The behaviour of the racist is often tolerated. He/she can see those of ‘other’ faces or races as soft targets – regardless of their grade/salary. Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the obscene attacks Obama experienced and you don’t get much more senior than him.

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