A Black Woman in PR On Why it's Important to Have a CEO of Color (and How to Affect Change Even if You Don't) - Glassdoor for Employers

A Black Woman in PR On Why it's Important to Have a CEO of Color (and How to Affect Change Even if You Don't)

2020 was the most insightful and heartbreaking year for underrepresented minority groups in America. Early last year, George Floyd's death ignited all minorities, particularly Black people, to realize that change was not only essential but critical. Many businesses have taken strides to speak against social injustice and put their money where their mouth is by donating. However, there is still work to do when it comes to supporting underrepresented groups in corporate America.

The PR industry is not nearly sufficiently diverse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2019, the U.S. PR industry holds 87.9% white, 8.3% African American, 2.6% Asian American, and 5.7% Hispanic American people.

Before 2020, most PR agencies avoided conversations about ethnicity, race or gender, either because these topics were considered taboo or leaders felt they did not have enough exposure to the underlying issues or dynamics to discuss them accurately.

Although the events of last year prompted many agencies to embark upon creating actionable change and build a more equitable industry underrepresented groups, we mostly just saw black squares on Instagram and empty commitments to hire more people of color with no real underlying accountability let alone progression. Many companies claimed to have donated funds, changed their hiring criteria, and more, but how many companies have kept their pledge?

Supporting people of color is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year effort and commitment that needs to be actively and consistently upheld.

We're Watching, and We Want Better

As a Black woman, I want to see people in executive leadership roles who look like me and understand the nuances of being a minority in an industry that doesn't often highlight or prioritize diversity.

CEOs must understand their diverse employees' difficulties and uniqueness, have honest conversations about diversity, and fight for social justice while - most importantly - listening to their diverse staff to identify ways to move forward and create tangible change.

Having a CEO who is a minority has allowed our company to create a workplace culture that is inclusive for everyone. But it is important to note that every CEO - irrespective of their personal background - can make a difference by implementing fundamental initiatives.

  • Demand accountability. Executive team members must recognize their need to work with diverse team members and create an inclusive environment.
  • Give us seats at the table. Allow everyone to discuss their ideas and give feedback on high-level projects, regardless of seniority or role in the company.
  • Invest in our future. Work with employees to create initiatives that accelerate their expertise and ability to lead initiatives.
  • Hire and promote. Encourage and prioritize full-time and part-time employment opportunities for BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) employees, and promote us to leadership and executive positions.
  • Rally the community. Encourage other companies to take a stand and pledge to support diverse communities.
  • Engage in consistent conversations. Have frequent conversations about social justice issues and support the open discussion of the situations and history that have affected and continue to affect BIPOC employees.

[Read more: 6 Simple Hiring Policies That Will Boost Diversity]

"The norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice. For there is always light if only we're brave enough to see it if only we're brave enough to be it." - Amanda Gorman, Inaugural Poet Laureate.

Public Relations professionals, I implore you: think more, listen more, do more, and be more conscious of your current company practices and what you can do to foster and flourish diverse excellence.

Candace Rucker is an Account Executive at VSC, a strategic communications firm focused on venture-backed tech. Her role includes media relations and messaging for clients across multiple verticals as well as working on agency culture, DE&I, and mentorship of the next generation of storytellers.

To see how other employers are taking advantage of Glassdoor's new Diversity & Inclusion product features to attract talent, check out the Diversity & Inclusion sections for Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Glassdoor.

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