Diversity in PR

Diversity has been a pretty dominant topic in the media lately. From things like racial profiling to LGBT rights, diversity is a word that keeps popping up. Think about it: Martin Luther King Jr. day just passed and the world is still celebrating his work with the civil rights movement, almost 50 years later! It’s pretty amazing. We’ve come a long way (and we still have a ways to go) with racially diversifying our country, but we still have a lot of work to do with gender and ethnic equality.

As with pretty much every other field (business, advertising, and medicine are a few that come to mind), public relations has been dominated by upper-middle class white males for years. You could do a simple Google search and learn the same thing. You could look at media and learn the same thing; shows like Mad Men (set in the late 1960s) portray the predominantly white male atmosphere at an advertising firm. So why, in 2014, are we still battling problems of diversity in the work place? According to Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), the field lacks ethnic diversity because most ethnic minorities are not educated about the field of public relations, but instead are “encouraged by their parents to take up law, medicine or accounting” (Stimson, 2013).

It also probably doesn’t come as a shock to know that white men dominate higher-up positions in the field, and are also paid more than women. More and more women are entering the field of public relations, but despite this fact, the wage gap is still widening, with women only earning, on average, about 77% of what their male counterparts are making (Huffington, 2013). Not only is the wage gap an issue of diversity in PR, gender discrimination, such as sexual harrassment, is also a major problem in the field. In an academic journal written by Tiffany Derville Gallicano at the University of Oregon, she points out the fact that despite men are in “power positions” and are more able to change aspects of these companies, they perceive that gender discrimination is happening to a lesser degree, if it is happening at all (2013).

Despite obvious lack of diversity in PR, this isn’t to say the field isn’t trying to solve the problem. Gallicano summarizes some of the efforts to try to diversify the field,

Despite the paucity of diversity in public relations agencies, there are signs of efforts to change. For example, Fleishman-Hillard (2012) has a paid six- to 12-month fellowship program for college seniors and recent graduates who are ethnically/racially diverse. Meanwhile, Edelman (2005) developed a program to recruit employees from historically black colleges and universities, and it launched a pilot mentoring program. Porter Novelli partnered with Together Our Resources Can Help (TORCH), a nonprofit that provides opportunities to underserved students in New York City public high schools (PR Week, 2011b). Porter Novelli gave an eight-week PR101 course to more than 40 TORCH students, raised $100,000 for the nonprofit organization, hired TORCH interns, and assigned TORCH students to Porter Novelli mentors (PR Week, 2011b). (2013).

It took years for Martin Luther King Jr. to change our views of racial segregation throughout the country, but we now live in a world where blacks and whites are more-or-less equal (like I said, we still have a ways to go). Slowly but surely, we are seeing small changes in PR, integrating both gender and ethnic equality, into a quickly growing field.

Gallicano, T. Derville. (2013). Millennials’ Perceptions About Diversity in Their PR Agencies. Public Relations Society of America, 7, 2, 7-8. Retrieved from http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/20132Gallicano.pdf

Huffington, C. (2013). Women And Equal Pay: Wage Gap Still Intact, Study Shows. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/women-and-equal-pay-wage-gap_n_3038806.html

Stimson, S. (2013). Why the PR industry lacks diversity. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://careers.theguardian.com/pr-industry-lack-diversity