PRSA Chicago Emboldens the PR Industry to Step Up on Diversity Efforts

2020 has been a challenging year for so many reasons. One of the key issues highlighted this past year is the continuation of systemic racism and inequity across America. Looking closer at statistics in the public relations industry, I was shocked at our collective lack of diversity.

Only 8.3 percent of professionals in PR are African-American, 5.7 percent are Hispanic-American and 2.6 percent are Asian-American, according to 2019 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Think about that. The far majority - nine out of 10 - PR professionals are Caucasian,  As a country experiencing a trend of multicultural consumers moving to the majority, the lack of racial representation in communications is alarming.

The PR industry must do better.

PRSA Chicago has been committed to improving our overall diversity and inclusion efforts by assembling a diverse PRSA Chicago Board Members who reflect different multicultural backgrounds, experience levels, occupations, age, and lifestyle preferences.

One of the core accomplishments for the Board was creating a Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This committee has helped us ensure we infuse broader thinking into our programming and communications.

Additionally, building upon our efforts to increase diversity among communications professionals, we are thrilled to announce the Michelle Flowers Diversity Fellowship Program. This program’s goal is to strengthen a pipeline of talented students of color who plan to practice public relations or communications. The Fellowship targets juniors who are communications majors and offers two awards of $3,000 each toward their education.

The award will include a summer internship at a Chicago agency affiliated with PRSA Chicago between the Diversity Fellow’s junior and senior year. The award is then renewable for the Fellow’s senior year based on attaining a 3.0 GPA. While in school, Diversity Fellows have the option of attending PRSA Chicago chapter events and programs at no cost, and the chapter will recognize them at the annual Skyline Awards. Following graduation, the Diversity Fellows will be considered for additional employment opportunities at PRSA Chicago member agencies.

I’m so proud of the PRSA Chicago Board, and especially fellow Board Member Michelle Flowers, for stepping up to lead this important initiative. Michelle is passionate about bringing this program to life, and I want to thank her for her leadership and dedication. This Fellowship in her name pays tribute to the meaningful contributions that she has made as a leading African-American pioneer in the PR industry, as well as her extensive dedication to diversity for more than 30 years.

I would also like to thank her co-chairs on this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Mailee Garcia and Demar Anderson, as well as chapter administrator Ann Scheible, and all of the committee members who volunteer their time to make special moments like this happen.

I hope this encourages all of us to think more deeply about how we, as communicators, can do better. While I expect you to share the news about this Fellowship with others, this should inspire us to do even more.

  • Are we recruiting at colleges and universities with a diverse pool of candidates?
  • Are we volunteering to speak or support organizations with diverse members?
  • Are we serving as a mentor to diverse students and young professionals?
  • Are we providing equal opportunities for advancement within our organization?
  • Do our communications truly reflect the diverse points of view of the growing multicultural consumers we target?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, you – as change agents – have the power to make improvements individually or within your organization.

We have a long way to go to close this diversity gap, but I know that many of you are determined to improve. Please let us know how PRSA Chicago can help you along the way.

More details about the Michelle Flowers Diversity Fellowship can be found here.

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