Why retention is the roadblock to a more diverse pr industry

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To combat the PR industry's lack of diversity, employers have focused on recruiting young, multicultural staffers into their ranks. However, PR pros say that to make a real dent in this decades-old problem, they should shift their attention to retaining those individuals. There's a clear disconnect between employers and employees on the issue, according to a just-released survey of young black and Hispanic US PR practitioners that was funded by the PRSA Foundation. It examined the experiences of young, multicultural PR professionals who have graduated since 2008 and are working in the agency, corporate, nonprofit, and government and NGO sectors. PR employers were also surveyed.

Nearly eight in 10 (79%) PR employers see their efforts to retain a diverse workforce as being successful. Yet only two-thirds (67%) of young professionals agree with employees on their retention programs. One-third of young professionals say the industry is not effectual at retaining a diverse workforce, compared with one-fifth of employers, according to the study, which was in the field from October 2014 to February 2015.

ColorComm president Lauren Wesley Wilson says bosses might not be paying close enough attention to how long their staffers – minority or not – have worked for them.

"Sometimes [employers] will look around and say, ‘I see multicultural people here, so we are doing a good job,’" says Wesley Wilson. Yet she adds that while it is common to see minorities in junior PR roles, the same level of diversity is not found at the VP level and above.

Respondents to the PRSA Foundation study agree that the PR industry has taken steps to improve inclusion in the workplace, particularly in recruiting a diverse workforce. Yet once diverse practitioners enter the workplace, those surveyed express concern about a lack of support, compounded by perceived biases they believe are negatively impacting their careers.

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