Numbers don’t lie: Public relations has a diversity problem.
According to 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 81.4% of public relations specialists identify as white, 12.2% identify as Black, 2.4% as Asian and 11.9% as Latino or Hispanic. There’s a wage gap, too: A 2015 study by The Holmes Report found that a white female public relations professional makes an average $9,000 more a year than a woman of color. This is a problem for all of us, including those in privileged positions across the industry.
Ensuring that our profession better reflects the makeup of the consumers and audiences we’re trying to reach should be the top priority for 2023 and beyond. This is a mission we can work together to achieve, beginning today. And we can all start by doing what we do best: doing a good job of describing the problem and how to address it.
Representation is key to unlocking the potential for our industry. Of course, we should equitably expand the talent pool, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because we can’t drive growth for clients without a diverse group of people contributing their unique points of view and the lens through which they see the world.
Americans expect government, the entertainment industry and educators to realistically reflect their diversity, and so should the communications industry. This includes race and ethnicity, but true inclusivity prioritizes a range of social identities such as gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and religious beliefs. After all, clients need us to reach new audiences, and we can’t do that without speaking to those audiences with authenticity and respect.