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CIPR 5 Year Report: From Diversity to Inclusion

Category: Industry News, Events, inclusion, awareness, barrier, optimism

CIPR 5 Year Report: From Diversity to Inclusion

CIPR 5 Year Report, from Diversity to Inclusion: The profession of Equality in Public Relations and Challenges for the Future 

Below is a snapshot of the report to download the full copy of the pdf file - please follow the link.


In 2009, the CIPR President–elect Paul Mylrea FCIPR, approached a number of PR practitioners to participate in an initiative exploring the lack of diversity within the UK PR industry.

The Diversity Working Group (DWG), as it became known, would raise awareness of the value of diversity in public relations and identify the barriers facing PR practitioners.

It would report before the end of 2010 with key recommendations and actions for the PR industry, before being disbanded. However, five years later the Diversity Working Group is still here, working to improve diversity within the PR industry.

The five years of its existence has seen success and failure, as well as reasons for great optimism and frustration.

When the DWG was formed in 2009, the CIPR reported that the number of PR practitioners from non-white backgrounds was 7%. The figure now stands at 9%.

This report is not intended to support the continuing existence of the DWG. Its purpose is to assess the progress of the diversity mission over the last five years, and reveal what lessons can be learned for the future.

Through going out to practitioners and listening to their views, we can evidence that there has been a great change in attitude but we need to ensure that the DWG’s effort is leading to tangible change. We must strive to improve the day-to-day reality for those working in public relations, but we can’t do it alone.

Together, we need to build on the work of the last five years and ensure that 2020 sees a more open and inclusive PR industry, which reflects the society it seeks to engage.

Cornelius Alexander Found.Chart.PR FCIPR

Embrace Diversity or Fail

Diversity – why care? Hasn’t diversity been done to death in the media? Hasn’t the PR industry ‘done that’ and moved on to the next hot topic?

Well the answer is no. In fact, diversity only continues to become more important and relevant as it increasingly drives societal change, becomes a factor in how we communicate, questions our concepts of community and challenges our professional sphere and practices. No longer ‘just’ a HR issue or an inconvenient stat in the annual report, diversity is finally on the agenda and it’s here to stay.

As the world changes socially, economically, politically, demographically and technologically, new pressures and increased globalisation will mean that diversity is becoming a business imperative. Certainly those of us in the communications sector will need to address its many implications for our business. These changes will result in the need to target more diverse audiences, create trust with more varied and ‘new’ stakeholders, reach more diverse markets and increasingly work with diverse clients facing global business challenges – themselves all being influenced by diverse cultural and creative trends. All of which the PR industry will need to understand and deliver to maintain commercial advantage.

And of course, the media landscape has changed significantly too; becoming more diverse itself thereby supporting and at the same time, enabling change. From fragmented audiences, to multiple channels, to numerous ways to engage via technology, alongside smart targeting of diverse interests and on and off-line alignment. These diverse audiences are themselves part of a huge shift, from ‘old school’ demographics to interest driven communities – not defined or held back by geographies, age, money or the physical world – they represent new global audiences and influencers.

At the same time, many groups are making a strong and increasingly vocal call for fairness and equality. For example, women in business and the challenges they face has never been more in the spotlight, though with women still having to fight for equal pay it’s clear we have a long way to go. The CIPR’s gender pay gap research recently confirmed what many have known for some time. The 2015 research published in February, highlighted that a clear pay inequality gap of £8,483 exists in favour of men, a figure that cannot be explained by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work amongst women.

And while women are at the vanguard of current discussions around corporate equality, diversity and fairness, global trends mean that the workplace is also undergoing an evolution from the monoculture of yesteryear to a new diverse reality. The future workplace will reflect the global movement of people, new societal trends, corporate market expansion, technological advances and new talent pools resulting in a truly new workforce. From multigenerational teams of gen-Xers, baby boomers and millennials; to more women in the workplace (1 billion alone will enter the workforce from emerging markets by 2020); to more home working and part-time roles enabled by flexible working; to seamless multi-market teams powered by new technology. Talent is changing. The needs of talent is changing. And despite this new workforce, as we in PR repeat our message about the fight for new talent and how lack of talent is our biggest business concern, we continue to hire ‘people like us’. Our universities? Tick. Our favoured degrees? Tick. Our ‘type’? Tick. Our accent? Tick? One of us? Tick.

We don’t need ‘people like us’. We need smart, creative and committed talent. We need folks that get social, fragmented media and new communities. We need to challenge the old ways of doing things. We need…diversity! Diversity to keep us creative and insightful via new input and ideas from a wide group of fresh minds and cultures. The CIPR State of the Profession Survey 2014/15 refreshingly found two-thirds of PR Professionals agreed diverse teams produced better campaigns but the CIPR diversity monitoring stats are still a grim read. BAME professionals constitute just 9% of the public relations workforce. We are not challenging ourselves, or our industry. We must embrace diversity, support positive change and reap the benefits.

Of course, you could just embrace diversity as it’s the right thing to do or because you want to be seen to do the right thing. Or you could wait until you fall foul of the legislation.

The Government has already announced plans to compel large organisations to publish information on employee salaries. The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for any organisation to pay men and women unequally. Legislation will eventually force our industry to improve its attitude to all diversity issues, but in the meantime are you willing to risk negative feedback from your peers, clients or employees? Either way, it’s your corporate reputation.


1 Why you set up the network

We set up the network to help create a positive employment experience for our LGBT employees and promote an open, honest, supportive and inclusive workplace across Ogilvy PR. Ogilvy aims to recruit and retain a diverse group made up from the most talented people. If you are committed to fostering a creative workplace, the first thing you need to do is to embrace ideas and ways of thinking that are different to your own. This means embracing diversity and difference. Ogilvy Pride is just as important for the next phase of creativity within the marketing industry, and to ensure effective communications, as they are for good personnel relationships within our company.

2 What you had to do to get it up and running

We partnered with Stonewall, the UK LGBT rights charity, as a Global Diversity Champion.We are the first PR firm to become global diversity champions with Stonewall, and this relationship has helped us across our aims of becoming a diverse employer and employer of choice for the LGBT community, as well as providing valuable insights for the work that we do for our clients. In order to set up the network, we had support from our most senior leaders within the business to ensure that the message of LGBT inclusion was set from the top of the company. In April 2015, we hosted an industry event with Sir Martin Sorrell and Lord Browne, in which they discussed the book ‘The Glass Closet’ and the importance of authenticity in business to all employees and our clients.

3 How it’s been received

The network has been championed as a best in class case study across the Ogilvy Group and wider WPP network to promote LGBT diversity. Ogilvy Pride was recognised by the Inclusive Networks Organisation as a top 40 professional network, putting us alongside our clients such as BBC, IBM, Barclays and RBS in 2015. Ogilvy Pride is now being established in other markets across Ogilvy PR, such as Prague, Milan, Shanghai, Philippines, Hong Kong and Washington DC.

4 The impact it’s had on the business and client work

Ogilvy Pride has impacted 3 key business functions – human resources, marketing and new business. Through promoting an inclusive and LGBT-friendly environment, Ogilvy Pride has fostered diverse talent at Ogilvy PR. Ogilvy Pride has generated thought leadership and inspired brands to take the steps to engage with issues of LGBT rights through their communications. And Ogilvy Pride has generated its own revenue stream, through being an LGBT insights specialist practice.Ogilvy Pride projects have included working with client Turner Broadcasting to promote the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race and LGBT rights charity Stonewall.

With the fragmentation of the media landscape, and the rise of niche targeted media outlets, a deep understanding and appreciation of diversity is now key to effective communications.

The Research

Lessons from professionals

The DWG wanted to learn about public relations professionals’ experiences of diversity in the workplace. The group conducted two separate strands of qualitative research, designed to gather views on the current state of diversity and future challenges facing the profession. By seeking insight based on personal experiences, the project complimented existing quantitative research to reveal the true state of diversity in public relations.


In July 2015, the DWG hosted roundtable discussions in London and Leeds to gauge the attitudes of PR professionals towards different diversity issues impacting public relations. Each discussion lasted an hour and a half and took place under the Chatham House Rule to encourage participants to speak openly about their experiences. The London roundtable took place at the CIPR offices in Russell Square on Thursday 2 July and was attended by 15 public relations professionals. A further ten practitioners attended the Leeds roundtable, which was held at Leeds Beckett University on Tuesday 7 July. Participants comprised a mix of senior and junior public relations practitioners, with 60% of roundtable participants being female, 68% working in-house and 32% working in agencies.

Mobile research

The DWG then undertook an innovative approach to delve deeper into the views of practitioners on diversity in public relations. The mobile research project enlisted 11 participants who, between 20 July and 24 August, were sent notifications to their mobile devices prompting them to record video feedback on various issues impacting diversity in public relations. Participants were asked to reflect on their experiences and share their views on gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and age.

64% of participants were female. Although many participants had worked in both agency and in-house environments, 73% worked for a range of large and small consultancies at the time of recording, whilst 27% said they currently worked in-house. The project was led by Kiosk HQ, under the guidance of the DWG.

PR cannot afford to side-line order professionals

Participants spoke of their frustration with the PR industry’s obsession with youth. Demanding hours, along with a fast dayto-day pace, mean our industry is often wrongfully regarded as a young person’s profession. The result is that agency and in-house teams miss out on hiring older professionals. PR professionals revealed there needed to be a balance struck between celebrating young practitioners, whilst remaining mindful of older professionals.

At the London roundtable, PR professionals stressed the importance of exercising caution when drafting job descriptions. Both HR and PR professionals need to be mindful of the language they use in job descriptions to ensure all job opportunities remain inclusive.

In Leeds, the enthusiastic pursuit of ‘digital natives’ emerged as an example of the way older practitioners can be left out in the cold. What’s more, participants spoke of an anxiety of revealing O-Level qualifications, for fear of risking age discrimination.

By ignoring older professionals, many of whom may have gained invaluable experience from other industries, we risk depriving ourselves of fresh insight at a time when industry convergence is at an all-time high. Participants unanimously agreed that addressing this cultural imbalance ought to be regarded as a priority for the PR industry.

Achieving gender parity is still proving an uphill struggle

Issues relating to maternity leave and returnto-work were repeatedly raised by both male and female research participants. There was a particularly strong sense of injustice amongst women who felt they had been punished professionally for deciding to start a family. Their frustration was amplified by the fact such an inflexible working culture presides in an industry almost two-thirds female.

It was felt that the lack of impetus to enact change was representative of the power imbalance that exists in public relations. Whilst women comprise two-thirds of the industry, the majority of senior management teams are still made up of men. In other words, despite being outnumbered, men hold the power in PR. Some of those who took part in the mobile research felt that this explained why there were so few women in senior management positions. An indirect consequence of this is that many women have left their companies to establish their own businesses and whilst participants acknowledged this as a positive, the widely held consensus was that more needed to be done to tackle the root causes of their disaffection.

The gender pay gap was another area of frustration for professionals. Mobile research participants bemoaned the lack of action by companies to redress the disparity. Some pointed to the fact that in many ways, equal gender pay is the simplest of all the diversity challenges the industry needs to overcome. All that’s required is for organisations to publish transparent pay grades for specific roles, and pay men and women equally.

There was, however, a degree of cause for optimism. Many participants felt public relations was slowly adopting more flexible working structures and there were examples of organisations who had equal numbers of men and women in senior management positions.

Increasing ethnic diversity is a work in progress

Professionals expressed their frustration at the consistently feeble numbers of PR practitioners from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Mulling over figures that indicate only 9% of PR professionals are from BAME backgrounds, some participants attributed the cause of the issue to a lack of impetus for change and a satisfaction with the status quo, rather than overt discrimination. Yet other participants at the Leeds roundtable held stronger views.

Participants unanimously agreed that allowing the present state of affairs to remain was not an option. At the London roundtable it was mentioned that young professionals from BAME backgrounds felt pressurised to mould themselves into who they felt they ought to be, as opposed to allowing themselves to develop naturally. This can lead to those professionals feeling isolated, prompting them to question whether public relations was the right career choice. An absence of BAME role models and the dominance of white middle-class practitioners can strengthen feelings of isolation. This may go some way to explaining why so few BAME professionals hold senior management positions in public relations – retaining talent is as much as an issue as obtaining it.

On the issue of isolation, some participants felt PR agencies and in-house teams needed to think more carefully about how they present themselves.

In London, there was a feeling that a degree of progress on the issue had been made. Now more than ever, senior management teams were aware of the debate surrounding the lack of ethnic diversity in PR. Having raised awareness of the issue, the industry finds itself needing to convince the C-suite of the business benefits brought by ethnically diverse teams. Many participants felt that the narrative surrounding BAME professionals needed to shift away from ‘diversity’, towards talent acquisition. The public relations industry is overlooking a goldmine of talent that can help propel teams and agencies to new heights.

Many participants pointed to a lack of visibility and understanding of PR amongst those from ethnically diverse backgrounds. There was a deep sense of frustration that industry bodies and agencies were not making conscious efforts to go out to diverse communities and schools where little is known about public relations.

The Taylor Bennett Foundation, which provides public relations training and career support to ethnically diverse individuals interested in PR was widely praised by research participants. Two of the mobile research participants were Taylor Bennett graduates now employed by leading public relations organisations. The Foundation was praised for its efforts in sourcing talent from diverse communities but participants felt the industry as a whole needed to engage in similar initiatives. Secondary school outreach programmes were felt to be particularly crucial because school careers advisors often lack an understanding of public relations, leaving students with very little chance of considering PR as a career. Increasing public relations as a viable career path for students should therefore be a priority for the industry.

“Disability is one of PR’s dirty secrets”

Roundtable and mobile research participants were united in their condemnation of the way public relations has overlooked those with disabilities.

Of all the diversity issues impacting public relations, our participants felt disability was the least spoken about. The impression was that public relations recruiters and organisations had largely ignored the issue of disabled people. Participants struggled to recollect having worked with any colleagues with visible disabilities, never mind any in senior management positions.

One mobile research participant felt that disabled people were side-lined from public relations because those with disabilities didn’t fit the pre-conceived, stereotypical image of a public relations team. It was argued that people with disabilities would find the typical public relations office an unfriendly and hostile environment.

Others bemoaned the practical obstacles by exchanging stories of buildings and events not catering for those with disabilities. As with some of the other diversity issues impacting PR such as ethnicity, participants felt talent rather than tokenism needed to be prioritised as it is the businesses, as much as the candidates, that stand to benefit from embracing diversity.

From a communications perspective, some participants admitted they hadn’t given ample consideration to those living with disabilities until recently.

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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