Retaining Diverse UK Public Relations Practitioners

Public relations practitioners of color in the United Kingdom experience similar workplace issues as their counterparts in the United States.

For example, the CIPR Race in PR report (2020) found these key themes: Racism and microaggressions. A microaggression is “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority” (p. 14). One of the 17 BAME practitioners interviewed stated:

“I once mentioned to a white colleague that I went to a private school and his response was, how did your parents afford that? That’s an example of a microaggression, people assuming that because you are black that you come from a deprived background” (p.15).

Inflexible and noninclusive culture. This includes pressure to conform, moving in the right social circles, and cultural rigidity. Another public relations professional noted the following:

“It’s such a polished world in comms in London. You need to say the right things and speak the right way. I’m not posh at all, it has been years of tailoring my voice, the way I sound and act …. My dad is from Southeast Asia and my mum has a strong UK regional accent, so I didn’t sound or act like the people in this industry. I had to really work on it” (p. 16).

Lack of equal opportunities and progression. Next, this BAME practitioner echoed what many African American parents tell their children:

“My dad had always said to me ‘Son, you’ll have to work twice as hard to get what the white man has got’. He wasn’t wrong! It certainly has felt like that in PR” (p. 18).

Unconscious bias. Finally, this BAME professional mentioned a pejorative used to describe some African American women:

“As I’ve progressed I’ve come to realise that some, a minority, question my ability based on the colour of my skin. I also have a general sense, and some experience, of some people labelling Black women as aggressive when they are simply being assertive” (p. 20).

CIPR noted that although it did not discuss disability, sexuality, age, gender and social mobility, reported experiences mirror Race in PR report findings.

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