Diversity and the year 2020

This month sees the annual PRSA Diversity Month.

A concerted nationwide campaign to inform the PR profession in the US of the issues and the progress on the subject of Diversity in PR. A pursuit that I thought everyone would supportive.

But last year while working for the Diversity Working Group, I heard a phrase which struck me as odd.

Diversity Fatigue.

Not a phrase I was familiar with and, to be honest when I first heard it, I didn’t quite understand it until someone expanded on it saying the PR Industry was perhaps becoming bored with hearing about the need for diversity in PR.

Bored as in, “Yes. We know it is good for business and just plain common sense. No need to mention it again.”

When the DWG produced its ‘From Diversity To Inclusion’ report, it was as much to mark five years of the DWG as to ask the question how far have we travelled during that time?

For some, we have travelled a great deal, for others not far enough. But support for change was not drying up.

Over the last few months, I noted a number of events and articles, which chimed with my interest in opening up the PR industry to all.

The UK’s Govt Communications Service release its Diversity Strategy
The World PR Forum Conference in Toronto on building bridges with communities
An article appeared on how The Millennial Generation Has Redefined Diversity
A series of infomercials by the PRSA on making the PR industry attractive to diverse communities
Formation of a UK BME PR and Comms Group
The launch of a PR/Advertising Diversity campaign titled BAME 20/20.
BBC Diversity Objectives
I thought that it was great that contrary to a concern that the PR industry is facing Diversity burnout, it is clear that many are seeing that it is an important issue up there with the other issues that are taking up the PR Professions time – relevance, ethics, respect, professionalism, competency framework among a few .

But what got me really interested was that there was a marked change in tone and attitude.

It was no longer about getting fresh talent into the industry but making greater efforts on the issues of Recruitment / Retention / Promotion.

Not just getting people through the front door but also keeping them within the industry, helping them climb the leadership ladder. Perhaps that is where the Burnout was. The messaging had not moved on and developed quickly enough. But now it had.

So. Why are Retention and Promotion important?

There is growing data on the recruitment rate of individuals from diverse communities but none re attrition rates or why they are leaving the industry. It is not known if all the efforts being made to attract people from a wider background into the industry is actually working and that those individuals are still in post three, five or ten years later.

BAME20/20 describes its mission this way.

“People often talk of the ‘squeezed middle’ – the fact that we lose BAME talent before they ever reach a leadership role. BAME20/20 aims to help keep our talent as they progress through their careers; to see more reaching leadership level and more become Marketing and Communications Directors of leading organisations or the CEO’s of top Agencies.”

The President and CEO of Canadian telecoms group, Telus, Darren Entwistle, wrote an opinion piece in support of the Pride Parade in Vancouver this weekend, attended by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

“As leaders, we have the opportunity to build teams that are genuine reflections of our customers and the communities where we live, work and serve. Fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment facilitates a broader and more creative exchange of ideas, promotes better talent acquisition and retention, inspires innovation, and brings new skills, knowledge and perspectives that help us better understand and serve our diverse client base.”

Being a trusted member of the team is important. Equally key is providing those staff members with the opportunity to pursue their ambitions and be promoted into more senior posts.

Many of the above initiatives are date stamping when the want these changes to come about.

The Government Communications Service (GCS) has pulled together a Diversity and inclusion strategy. Which is looking to improve the representation within the GCS by the end of parliament – May 2020.

Improve senior civil service level diversity and in particular representation of women at Director of Communications level.
Improve representation of BAME and disability for employees at all grades in line with the UK census (14% BAME, 9.4% disability), focussing on our talent pipelines to senior civil service grades; and
Attract and retain GCS early talent from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Our plan is aligned
Tackling the Inclusion issue there are a number of initiatives including:

We will use reverse mentoring and co-mentoring to help leaders better understand views, perspectives and experiences of those from different backgrounds.

I have asked for further details regarding the monitoring and enforcement of the strategy and will write a further piece when I receive a response from the GCS.

The BBC has promised that women will make up half of its workforce on-screen, on-air and in leadership roles by 2020.

And the broadcaster also wants 15 per cent of its workforce to be drawn from BAME backgrounds for staff and leadership roles. C4 also said that it would increase the diverse balance of its teams by 15% by 2020. Other broadcasters have adopted similar initiatives.

The year 2020 also pops up in the CIPR’s PR 2020 report in which it seeks, among other objectives, to address issues in diversity in employment and build a structure that brings experience together with fresh new talent.

The 30% Club wants a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-350 boards by 2020. In addition – and in order to ensure that this 30% minimum at board level remains sustainable – the 30% Club is also introducing a new pipeline target of a minimum of 30% women on executive committees of FTSE-100 companies by 2020.

The bottom line in all this is that in keeping with the best PR plans various initiatives have not only laid out measurable targets but have also given a deadline for these to be accomplished by.

If a third of the initiatives announced over the course of 2016 have a strong/positive impact in 2020, what a great way to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Diversity Working Group now the Diversity + Inclusion Forum, by saying that it was no longer needed …