Schools not out for PR: an industry for white public-school alumni

The PR industry agrees that diversity is important for attracting the best talent, to bring fresh thinking, creativity and insights into new audiences, but our actions speak louder than our words.

And our actions are building a profession of white public-school alumni; we are less diverse than we’ve been for the past five years, with 92% of our industry being white and nearly one in three practitioners (28%) coming from fee paying schools, compared to only 16% in 2015.

The representation of people from private schools is four times higher than the national average; with a third of professionals over the age of 55 and under the age of 25 most likely to have attended a fee-paying school – so this is no hangover from the ‘good old days’ and we have to face the challenge that social mobility is no more in PR, just as we have seen in wider society.

We’re at least more diverse than the notoriously un-diverse Parliament, where 32% of MPshave been to private schools, but only just.

So, does it matter? Well, there is a strong correlation between attendance at fee-paying schools and career progression and pay. Those who attended a private school are more likely on average to hold a senior post and be paid accordingly, those who did not.

Truly old school.

In a female powered industry where woman make up two-thirds of the profession, but men occupy nearly half (44%) of the industry’s most senior roles, the only glimmer of diversity hope is that the gender pay gap is being eroded slowly – down £1,523 this year to £5,202.

And all this despite the widely view that PR is more effective when practiced by teams that are ethnically diverse. How do we hope to keep pace with the changing nature of society that we seek to engage?  Who can make our industry a fairer place where there is opportunity for all?

You! Every manager, every employee, every agency leader – we all need to challenge outdated and bias recruitment and retention policies. We are all responsible for shaping the future of our industry by establishing workplace cultures in which all talent is judged fairly and given an equal opportunity for progression. Without those inside changing the status quo, those outside will remain locked out and our profession will be the poorer for it.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

  1. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “comment_content” *]
    It’s sad but not surprising to read that so many people in PR come from wealthy backgrounds.

    There are a number of reasons for this. Most jobs, particularly in the agency sector, are filled via the old boy network rather than openly advertised. I’ve even come across this in the private sector. I am also very disturbed by the recent growth in unpaid internships which obviously discriminate against those from poorer backgrounds.

    It’s hardly surprising that the public view our profession as elitist and out of touch when often that is the reality.

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