New research from The Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK reveals a public relations industry “in which BAME practitioners tell of racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases faced and having to work within an inflexible culture that denies them opportunities and fair progression; ultimately making individuals question their ability to sustain a career in PR.”
The ‘Race in the PR Workplace: BAME lived experiences in the UK PR industry’ report follows the career journey of 17 BAME practitioners and highlights an alarming similarity of experiences.
It’s great that the report includes definitions of terms like ‘microaggression’ and ‘unconscious bias” as I think one of the challenges is they are very unfriendly terms that aren’t widely understood.
One theme that stood out for me is that some of the issues raised are more specific to BAME practitioners while others are the type of discrimination, equality and diversity issues that I’ve witnessed around gender, class and regional identity.
Overall while some of the experiences detailed are shocking, they aren’t surprising as I know this happens in our society and economy so wouldn’t expect the PR industry to be any different.
For me the most important part of the report is the ‘Blueprint Commitments’ as that tackles what we can do to move forward. There are lots of great ideas around recruitment, nurturing talent and culture all of which I support.
My main reservation is how practical some of them will be for small companies and organisations to implement. For example “we have trained HR staff and all those with line management responsibilities” sounds great in theory, but most small companies and organisations don’t have even one HR person and people often become line managers with little or no training.
Similarly a “zero-tolerance approach’ should be a given, but practically how does that work on issues like ‘microaggressions’ when the definition given in the report shows that they will be hard to detect. What practical processes can a small organisation put in place to help it actually have a “zero-tolerance approach’ ?
Please read the full report and think about what you can do in your organisation.