Powering greater diversity in PR
After the pandemic renewed focus on diversity efforts, cultural change within the workplace has moved higher up the agenda for both brands and the PR companies that champion them. However, for multiple industries, PR and communications included, there is still work to do. While the sector fares well when it comes to championing talented female workers – 67% identify as women – there are several diversity issues to overcome when it comes to ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability.
Encouragingly, however, awareness around the importance of building an inclusive work environment is growing. Leading industry bodies such as the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) are making great progress in highlighting and driving a number of campaigns around issues such as mental health, the gender pay gap, and diversity and inclusion, in addition to setting best practices.
Innovative initiatives and guidelines from industry authorities are a great start for driving unified progress towards shared goals. But for agencies, it’s still vital to play their part in pushing representation and inclusion ahead; and GingerMay is part of that movement.
Where is PR diversity now?
While the industry has stepped up efforts to address the diversity gap, there is a need to pick up the pace. Statistics show levels have remained relatively static in the last ten years, especially when it comes to ethnic diversity.
The latest 2021 data found that 87% of PR professionals in the UK are white, falling only slightly from a 91% majority in 2011. Delving deeper into the most recent census, findings show a significant lack of diversity. Just 3.5% of PR workers are of mixed ethnicity, 3% are Indian, 2% black African or Caribbean, and just under 2% are black British. Pay gaps are also still clearly present at multiple levels. From an ethnicity perspective, the overall gap sits at 16%, while only 32% of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) professionals earn the average salary of £50,000, as compared to nearly half (46%) of white colleagues. Meanwhile, despite over two-thirds of the industry being female, there is a 12.7% gender pay gap.
Against a backdrop of 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, 19% of whom are working age adults, the percentage of people identifying as disabled in the PR industry stands at . While this figure has more than doubled from 2% in 2016, progress has slowed; with numbers up only one percentage point on last year. Although mental health was not included in PRCA’s 2016 report, 2021 data also shows 40% of workers were either diagnosed with or declared suffering from a mental health illness, an increase of 6% from 2020. Finally, sexual orientation has remained largely stable, with 84% identifying as heterosexual in 2021, the same as 2016.
A path towards better inclusion and belonging
The challenge of equal representation has not gone unnoticed by leading PR forces, especially the PRCA. Determined to redress the balance, the industry body released its own diversity and inclusion guidelines in 2018, aimed at raising the bar for all agencies.
Extending beyond leadership and covering all key PR industry stakeholders, these guidelines suggest several actions to tackle disparities by making changes to language, recruitment processes, organisational practices, and company culture. This includes core actions such as setting a mission statement and strengthening school and university outreach programmes, alongside implementing metrics to monitor diversity and inclusion.
For the industry as a whole, what’s important to grasp is that this shift isn’t just about fulfilling quotas; it’s also about truly reflecting human diversity and drawing from a pool of diverse talent. Moreover, enhancing representation has valuable business benefits: ensuring clients and customers are better understood and served. This, in turn, enables PR agencies to communicate with a variety of communities authentically.
The numbers on diverse business performance speak for themselves: according to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, ethnically and gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts by 35% and 15% respectively. More recent research also confirms that diverse and inclusive companies tend to be more innovative, successful at anticipating consumer trends, and better at retaining women and minorities.
Our contribution: open at every level
Here at GingerMay, we are committed to driving diversity progress forward and ensuring PR is open to rich, varied talent. In line with the PRCA guidelines, we have reviewed how our entire business works, including policies and strategies, and established a voluntary DE&I taskforce to ensure this is an ongoing and collective process.
We are dedicated to introducing and integrating positive change in every area: running across our mission statement, training and methodology, relationships with clients, and succession planning.
Here’s are just a few of the steps we’ve taken so far:
- Inclusive recruiting
GingerMay has partnered with a number of charities and organisations to start breaking down real and perceived barriers. For example, we attend 6th form college career fairs, talk at universities, and have teamed up with Digilearning and the Taylor Bennett Foundation to offer work experiences and internships for candidates from minority and under-represented communities. We are also currently planning a buddy system to involve our employees in mentoring interns and other work experience candidates, as well as increasing non-paid support for groups aiming to amplify diverse voices across ad tech, such as the Women in Programmatic Network.
At the wider recruitment level, we strive to ensure job ads use inclusive language and all staff involved in the interviewing process complete unconscious bias training, which covers the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
- Rigorous standards
In addition to endorsing the June 2018 timeTo Code of Conduct to help end sexual harassment within the marketing and advertising industry, GingerMay set up the Future Female Founders initiative helping to mentor, invest in, and guide female leaders who are driving sustainability solutions. Our business also champions female talent; comprised of 78% women and 22% men, with an award-winning female CEO at the helm.
- Ongoing support
Our trained Mental Health First Aiders are always available to promote individual wellbeing and offer vital support. Meanwhile, the dedicated resourcing team constantly reviews workloads to ensure overtime or presenteeism is not an expectation (since before COVID-19). We are constantly looking for more opportunities to improve and enhance our communications, structures, and strategies, with an open-door policy to the entire team for any suggestions and ideas.
Creating an inclusive culture that truly fosters a sense of belonging between team members, where people of all backgrounds feel seen and supported, is a vital work in progress. This means recognising industry challenges and determining to re-configure our own approaches to fuel positive change. It means partnering with new charities and organisations and going the extra mile to ensure that we are building a better and more sustainable future. We are ready for the challenge, and we are ready for change.