PR Diversity & Inclusion: The Common Denominator is Leadership

A recent literature review by Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan, Plank Center board member and professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, showcases diversity and inclusion trends in the PR industry throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

While some progress has been made in terms of recruitment of minorities and advancement of women to more senior executive positions, very little has changed since the 1990s.

“Only about 10% of the PR workforce is racially and ethnically diverse. Studies and projections indicate that the population segments currently considered to be minorities will constitute a slim majority in the next few decades,” said Bardhan.

The theme repeated in the trade press and academic research is that top leadership needs to care and get personally involved in D&I. More efforts need to be made to diversify top leadership. Without a change in the D&I realm, the PR profession will fall behind other sectors, and its lack of diversity will be increasingly questioned.

“Leaders set the tone for diversity and inclusion,” said Bardhan. “In particular, PR Leaders need to do a better job of being involved, accountable and focused on creating inclusive cultures.”

Additional key findings from Bardhan’s review include:

  • Diversity needs to be a part of organizational culture rather than an add-on, and accountability is needed for D&I initiatives.
  • Millennials have different expectations regarding D&I. They expect diversity and inclusion.
  • PR agencies and corporations need to set clear and measurable D&I goals and systematically measure the outcomes.
  • More best practices examples are needed from those organizations that have made successful strides in D&I.
  • D&I enhances innovation and increases productivity.

Despite slow change, the good news, according to the review, is that there is now a much greater understanding in the industry that major D&I changes are urgently needed. It is the “how” part that is the main struggle. PR leaders must engage with this struggle and lead the way on effective D&I initiatives.

Click here to see the complete literature review and additional research on diversity and inclusion.