In the last fortnight, PR Week and the PRCA launched the results of their joint census of the PR profession. It had an impressive response and is an important stage in the ongoing monitoring of the profession in terms of its make up, specialisms, the wealth it generates and the people it serves.
The first ‘outing’ of the data was in PR Week. In terms of diversity, it revealed some results that may be regarded as a concern. First, the percentage of practitioners from ‘Black Caribbean, African or British’ backgrounds was just 2%. Six percent of respondents allocated themselves to ‘other’ groupings, which suggests that more diversity is present in the field than the 2% figure suggests – and eight percent assigned themselves to ‘Other white’, presumably non-British practitioners. These figures may be largely in line with census population breakdown (e.g. in 2009, the overall percentage of Black / Black British in the population in England and Wales was 2.81%). However, they still prompt questions about the nature of cultural diversity in the profession, not simply in terms of the amount of cultural diversity, but also in terms of the specifics of diverse practitioners’ careers. A more fine-tuned exploration of the data will tell us much more about these groups. Such an exploration should include assessments of who the ‘Other’ categories contain, and where these diverse practitioners are in the industry – their specialisms, seniority and tenure in the profession, for example. This would provide valuable information that our industry bodies must take into account in their discussions of diversity (through the CIPR’s ‘diversity conversations’ and the PRCA’s diversity commission).
The situation is similar when it comes to women in the profession. While PR is dominated by women overall (64%), the narration in the PRWeek article also states that ‘the pendulum swings firmly back in favour of males’ once board director or partner level positions are examined. This, again, is extremely important and needs further clarification. Why does this happen? What is causing such a reversal of fortunes? In which industries, for example, are women more often seen at senior levels and in which are they excluded? What are the reasons for this?
Other aspects of diversity – disability, sexuality or religion, for example – are not mentioned in this brief overview. It is, of course, a starting point that will be followed up with further articles and I look forward to hearing more about these areas as the publication of the results continues. Nonetheless, it is crucial that, if this census is to be a landmark in our understanding of the industry, then important questions need to be asked about the structures of the industry that are suggested by these statistics. I look forward to more information, and more consideration of these questions, as the results of the survey are revealed.