How to understand and improve diversity

How inclusive and diverse is your organisation? What about your internal communication?

If you want to understand how to improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace and the wider industry, I’ve got a new resource to help you.

Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. Workplace inclusion requires a shift in an organisation’s culture and is a recognition that policies alone are not sufficient to build an inclusive workplace.

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has just published its Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines to enable practitioners to learn more and translate theory into reality.

As a member I welcome this move, and am delighted to share the guidelines with All Things IC’s readers so we can all learn as a professional community. Well done PRCA.

What steps are you taking in your organisation? I regularly conduct internal communication audits as a Communication Consultant as I help companies examine the way they communicate and spot ways to improve.

Part of my investigations include looking at diversity and inclusion in organisations. This not only translates itself into the demographics of your workforce, but how you talk about and represent your employees. From gender-specific language to ethnically diverse photographs, diversity and inclusion is not a token effort. You should be spoilt for choice in your internal communication.

For example, it’s quickly apparent to me when companies use the same photographs internally to highlight their diversity. If you are truly diverse, there should be more than one way you communicate the vibrancy of your culture and how seriously you take this matter.

I took part in unconscious bias training with a client’s People team last year and found it fascinating to examine my own thinking and unconscious biases.

Further reading: Download the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to conduct an internal communication audit.

What PRCA say the PR and Comms industry needs:

  • CEOs and industry leaders to engage with the issue and lead from the top.
  • A recruitment process that truly supports diversity.
  • More industry-led mentorship programmes to support the development of those from diverse backgrounds.

How does the PRCA think we will get there?

  • By developing up-to-date data on the state of diversity in the industry.
  • By working closely with other key PR industry stakeholders to champion all areas of diversity.
  • By working with key stakeholders to reach people from diverse backgrounds through broader outreach at schools and universities.

Diversity is a business priority

Francis Ingham, Director General of PRCA says: “For our industry to grow, diversity is essential for us to communicate to society’s changing demographics. We believe diversity is a business priority; and we believe that it needs to address issues like geography, age, and mental health alongside the more addressed issues such as gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Otherwise, we are limiting ourselves from the very start.”

Couldn’t agree more, I love the fact mental health is in there too.

I blogged a few years ago about the outstanding work Asda has been doing to communicate its diverse and inclusive culture and the guidelines they produced alongside Stonewall.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How Asda is building an inclusive and diverse culture.

Let’s take a look and see what’s in the PRCA guidelines…

Steps to take to ensure your workplace is more diverse and inclusive:

  • Monitor and collect diversity metrics through employee surveys and equality impact assessments.
  • Introduce fair and transparent recruitment practices through unconscious bias training, posting
    job adverts online and on different jobs boards, and outreach programmes.
  • Offer structured and paid internships.
  • Offer quality and paid apprenticeships.

What does a commitment to inclusion mean?
PRCA state a commitment to inclusion requires a genuine effort by senior management to ensure everyone in the organisation is supported and respected regardless of their age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, social backgrounds, and pregnancy or maternity. It should not be treated as a “box-ticking exercise”.

What role do senior leaders play?

Senior leaders play an important role in delivering workplace inclusion. They must be vocal about the benefits of embracing people from diverse backgrounds, and believe that workplace inclusion can drive stronger performance and business results.

Further reading: Time for Action – the business case for inclusive workplaces, by CBI.

What do the figures say?
Over the years, the PRCA has tracked diversity within the PR and communications industry through its PR Census, which is the most comprehensive analysis of the industry.

  • PRCA’s PR Census in 2011 revealed 92% of the industry’s workforce was White and 89% British.
  • In 2013 the industry’s workforce was 91% White and 90% British.
  • Their 2016 figures revealed the industry is 91% White and 83% British.

Ethnic diversity has remained static over the last six years. However, encouragingly, according to the Census in 2016, the younger the individual, the less likely they are to be White British.

Further reading: Download the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines

What the guidelines say about gender
According to the PRCA, 64% of the industry are women. This majority has remained relatively static since the PR Census in 2011. However, women are persistently under represented at senior management levels.

According to the 2016 figures, women outnumber men 3:1 between the positions of Account Executive and Associate Director. However, once we get to senior roles such as Board Directors/ Partners, 64% of these roles are held by men.

Gender pay gap
The gender pay gap in 2016 was £9,111.

Jargon buster: The gender pay gap is the difference between the hourly earnings of men and women as a percentage of men’s earnings.

It represents a difference in the average pay rather than men and women being paid differently for the same job (this is illegal under the Equality Act 2010). The most common explanation for the gender pay gap in the industry (and most other industries) is that women are underrepresented in senior management roles due to pregnancy and maternity leave, unconscious bias, and fewer promotions.

Further reading: Download the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines

Further reading: How to communicate your gender pay gap

According to the 2016 figures, 2% of PR and communications practitioners consider themselves to have a disability. Freelancers or independent consultants are most likely to be disabled, with 6% of that section of the industry considering themselves to be disabled. However, 78% of the industry believe that there are no significant obstacles to employing disabled people.

Sexual orientation
In terms of sexual orientation, 85% of the industry describe themselves as heterosexual. Around 4% of the industry describe themselves as gay, 90% of which are men. 2% describe themselves as bisexual and 10% of respondents preferred not to say.

Mental health
Raising awareness and managing mental health is a vital issue in the PR and communications industry. According to the PRCA Mental Health Survey, 59% of PR and communications practitioners have suffered from mental ill-health. Alarmingly, over 90% of PR and communications employers said they had no formal mental health policy. Finally, 37% of employees said they would not feel comfortable discussing their mental health with their managers.

Do you have a mental health policy? If you do,  I’d love to feature you as a guest writer for the All Things IC blog if you’re able to share yours and the thinking behind it. Do please get in touch.

Further reading: Download the PRCA Mental Health Toolkit

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to stay mentally healthy if you work in comms.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Strangers on a train – living with social anxiety.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Why a University is offering mental health first aid. 

Flexible working
PRCA state as a starting point, employers should make employees aware of flexible working opportunities in the workplace. If these opportunities are not clearly available, then employers should let employees know they have a statutory right to make a request for flexible working.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: Can you work flexibly and succeed in Comms?

There is a whole section on paid internships, which I’m glad to see has been covered. I’ve got a guest post to share with you soon featuring industrial placements.

How to get involved

To become a member of the PRCA Diversity Network, please contact:
To find out more about the PRCA Diversity Network, go to the PRCA website.

Further reading: Download the PRCA Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines

Well done again PRCA. What do you think of the guidelines? Are they useful for you? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or you can find me on Twitter @Allthingsic.

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 14 February 2018.

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