Mirroring a Diverse Nation

By Kimberly Varner, M.A.

Earlier this year, the PRSA Foundation released what it called “staggering” numbers about diversity in the PR industry. Today, African Americans and Hispanics make up about 30 percent of the U.S. population. That number is expected to grow to more than 50 percent by 2050. And yet, according to the PRSA Foundation, fewer than 10 percent of PR pros identify as African American or Hispanic. And those numbers don’t capture the lack of diversity in the leadership ranks of the PR industry. Additionally, they leave out other types of diversity related to sexual orientation or disability.

The good news is that the field is  making progress in diversifying. At this year’s annual meeting, PRSA introduced a new joint initiative between the United Negro College Fund and the PRSA Foundation, called the PRIME Scholars Program.

This program will work to create a path forward for African-American students seeking to enter the industry through a combination of student recruitment, student support, institutional change, and employer support and participation.

In addition to PRSA and the PRSA Foundation, organizations like the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) serve as advocates for black professionals in the public relations industry. Through its national network of members and chapters in many major cities, NBPRS develops opportunities for mentorship and peer-to-peer support creates networks of highly qualified, like-minded professionals who want to see a more culturally diverse public relations industry.

I’ll be attending the NBPRS conference later this week, where we will network, share stories, make new connections, learn from each other, and help advance these conversations.

There is a lot more that we can all do to improve the diversity of the public relations field. For example, consider working with your local disability services agency to obtain training on how to accommodate and work with people with disabilities. The agency can provide training or internships for disabled workers, like our firm did earlier this summer.

A diverse workplace benefits our companies, our employees, and our clients who expect us to think broadly about their communications needs. With the changing demographics of the country, it is time to amplify our efforts to generate a public relations industry workforce that mirrors our nation.

Follow Hager Sharp on Twitter @hagersharp for updates from the NBPRS conference this week.

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