The Chartered Institute for Public Relations has published the CIPR PR Population Report examining the demographic make-up of the public relations profession in England and Wales. The report analyses the Office for National Statistics data of the 2021 census. It reveals there are 63,563 people who can be identified as public relations professionals.
Some of the analysis and commentary focus on what appear to be shocking figures for gender diversity. The report reveals 66% of practitioners below director level are female, but in senior roles 54% are male. The close to 50/50 ratio for senior roles is to be welcomed, but begs the question as to where all the women who enter the profession go? Why don’t they make it to the senior roles? We do have answers to these questions and there is lots of work being done, but it is still a work in progress.
However, the data needs to be considered in a wider context. How does the public relations profession compare to other professions? Is it better, worse or similar? This same consideration applies to all the other data in the report. Knowing where the profession stands in relation to others can help the CIPR board and council to priorotise the issues where there are the biggest discrepancies to solve.
For ethnic diversity the analysis shows 87% identified their ethnic group within the high-level “White” category, compared to 82% for the whole population.
For me the most alarming statistic in the report is that the public relations profession is a worryingly young profession. A staggering 45% of professionals are aged between 16 and 34. Even more shocking is that just 21% are aged 50 to 74. The second largest group is 35-49 which is 34%.
This all points to a horrific loss of talent, experience and expertise.
This potentially explains why public relations struggles so much with its own reputation and to have sufficient input at the most senior levels of leadership. Younger practitioners will be largely focused on tactical level implementation of communications related tasks and activity. They are unlikely to have enough experience to provide senior level counsel that is listened to by CEOs and boards.
We need to ask serious questions about why the profession is so skewed towards younger people and the potentially related question as to why women aren’t remaining in the profession and achieving senior roles.
As CIPR president Rachael Clamp’s quote (below) shows the CIPR is doing a lot to tackle diversity around gender and ethnicity. However, it can’t afford to neglect the equally important diversity issues around class and age.
“The report’s findings capture an interesting snapshot of the PR industry’s demographic background. And while the industry’s strides, since the Census data was collected in 2021, must be celebrated, the report’s statistics confirm that the sector must continue to provide equal opportunities for all. It is only then that true inclusion and diversity within the PR industry and beyond can be achieved.
The data provides the most accurate picture of the profession but does come with some caveats, as outlined in the report. It does, however, appear as if the growth of the industry was stunted during the pandemic or has not grown as expected in recent years; opinions on this will differ. This is why we must continue working to maintain our relevance and value to the organisations we represent and having these insights now will help us do that as we are developing our 2025-2029 strategy.”Rachael Clamp, CIPR president
CIPR PR Population Report methodology
The PR Population Report was produced by research specialists Chalkstream. The report just covers England and Wales as the 2021 census data from Scotland and Northern Ireland specific to public relations practitioners is not currently available for analysis.
It is worth downloading and reading the full PR Population Report as Chalkstream diector Ben Verinder explains the methodology and provides an excellent explanation of the data and some of the caveats that should be applied when studying the report.