Opinion: Public relations is becoming less diverse – we cannot afford to maintain the status quo
Some 28% of the public relations workforce have attended private school. That’s four times the national average and those who are privately educated in our industry go on to land more senior roles and command higher salaries than their state-educated peers.
The figures were revealed in the CIPR’s annual State of the Profession report, published today.
The research shows the proportion of privately educated professionals working in PR is growing. The number has almost doubled from 15% in 2015.
Today’s research also reveals that BME representation has hit a five-year low, with 92% of PR practitioners identifying as white.
Why does this matter?
Research on ethnic diversity and educational background are important for two reasons.
Firstly, diverse teams make business sense. Research confirms diverse teams bring fresh thinking, alternative perspectives and insight into new audiences. PR teams are more effective when they reflect the audiences they seek to engage.
The industry’s inability to grasp this issue poses a longer term threat too.
Department for Education figures for England reveal ethnic minorities comprise 31% of the primary school population, yet only 8% of PR professionals are from BME backgrounds.
The growth of privately educated professionals is also a concern. The point of scrutinising data on educational background is not about castigating those who went to private school. It’s about equalling access to the profession and ensuring that anyone – regardless of their background – can work to secure a role in public relations.
How the industry can reverse these trends
Year after year, PR professionals reveal their belief in diversity and inclusion but this year’s stats beg questions about how seriously the industry is taking the issue.
Communicators must stop hiring in their own image. The status quo will forever remain unless we challenge the culture embedded in our industry. The same culture in which unpaid internships are arranged for sons and daughters of friends’ colleagues.
Instead, we can take a different approach. We can ask for diverse shortlists when dealing with recruiters and conduct name-blind recruitment when filtering CVs.
Things can be different, but the industry must be aggressive in its pursuit of change.
The CIPR’s State of the Profession report explores the trends, issues and challenges facing public relations. From skills and salaries to diversity and gender pay, State of the Profession delivers industry-leading data on every aspect of the PR profession. Find out more here.
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