The business case for diversity

Businesses wanting to secure competitive advantage need to embrace diversity. BME inequality, gender imbalance and a lack of opportunities for the less fortunate are all issues the PR industry needs to get to grips with.

Farzana Baduel brings us the penultimate chapter of #FuturePRoof, all about the business case for diversity.

Join the #FuturePRoof discussion on Twitter @WeArePRoofed.


You’ll learn:

• What organisations have to gain from employing a diverse workforce
• Where to start when seeking talent from Black, Asian and non-White ethnic minority backgrounds
• Why the public relations industry has a duty to open up greater opportunities to those restricted by their socioeconomic status

The business case for diversity

For a trade recognised for managing relationships and enhancing reputation, it seems the PR industry requires some PR of its own when addressing the crucial issue facing diversity - or lack of it - within the industry itself.

From the melting pot to the salad bowl, the ever-globalised marketplace should be a harmonious homogenisation of our heterogeneous society where multiculturalism; social, cultural, sexual, physical, is the epitome of utopic communication and expression, generating revenue and catalysing fiscal growth.

But what actually is the business case for diversity?

Gender imbalance

At the core of diversity, lies the eternally prominent gender debate. Figures show that as an industry, PR is one of the highest female-dominated sectors, with at least three quarters of graduates studying the discipline. According to CIPR's Annual State of the PR Profession Survey [1], 65% of whom go on to work in the field.

Logically, these stats should dictate the saturation of women at Director-level and in Executive roles but the reality commands otherwise. The imbalance in fact, appears to take over as one rises in seniority. 

With an astounding lack of women at board level positions, men are the ones who are overwhelmingly in top leadership roles. The Women on Boards Davies Review Annual Report 2015 [2] shows that only 8.6% of women are Executive Directors at FTSE 100 companies.

Ultimately, this jaw-dropping gap is widened due to conflicting demands made upon women, from work, life, home and social pressures. According to Fortune, the key to success is in the art of balance and embracing a clear work-life integration.

A true commitment to supporting women in powerful positions must come from businesses firstly accepting diversity and subsequently, taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive to this change. Balance is achieved through various factors, perhaps the most relevant being flexibility. Flexibility equals the ability to retain staff and increase productivity at the same time: a win-win situation.

Giving women the opportunity to choose their hours, especially during the school holidays without pressure is highly advantageous. Giving senior level practitioners the choice to work part time or, shorter hours and scheduling to make up time without the fear of being fired, is all part of nourishing diversity and promoting organic growth. Everyone knows a happy employee is a hard working employee.

Another way to give women a support system and a real opportunity to be even greater is through access to action-orientated networking groups which seek to leverage professional skills. 

From building the pool of female board members and role models to raising awareness of the issues surrounding inequality and setting measurable targets with the aid of government policies - joining networking groups promotes women in leadership roles. 

BME inequality

According to the latest PRWeek/PRCA Census [3], most recent figures indicate that only 8% of PR practitioners are from an ethnic minority background. 

With these rather deflating numbers, the case for promoting diversity remains a strong focus. 
According to the New York-based Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) Studies [4], research shows that those teams with one or more members representing the diversity of the team’s target consumers are far more successful in effective innovation, brand building and understanding their audience. 

More and more, we are seeing BME figures heading hugely successful firms.

Creative Access [5] is one company pioneering this effort from the bottom up. Working to address the issue of accessibility, they look for talented people from Black, Asian and non-White minority ethnic backgrounds to fill internship places at the UK’s top media organisations. 

With their powerful philosophy being ‘media cannot reflect society, if society is not reflected in the media’ Creative Access is a good practical place to begin.

Socioeconomic factors

Public relations is undoubtedly a career which provides a rich and fulfilling platform. However for some high-calibre individuals, this opportunity is one which is often inextricably interlinked with restriction due to socioeconomic background. Entry into PR roles are underpaid at best and unpaid at worst.

This imbalance is one which constricts an industry that prides itself on innovation and growth. Elevating the stereotype and holding back all those who are unable to afford to work for free is an issue that must be addressed at a grassroots level. Widening the pool attracts a greater level of quality candidates and better business evolution.

Undoubtedly, raising awareness is the first step in improving this poor record and encouraging diversity into public relations, an industry worth almost £10 billion. 

Businesses must do more to ensure their workforces are represented in order to truly reap the rewards. Paying interns is a step towards inclusivity, giving those from underprivileged backgrounds an opportunity to excel without the added burden of paying to work and getting their foot in the door. 

The lack of diversity in the industry is an issue when creating authentic and impactful campaigns to reach sectors of the community that we may have no contact with ourselves. You must understand your clients and their target markets to influence them effectively.

Final thoughts

Cultivating diversity requires tolerance and meritocratic working environments where individuals are able contribute to not only a company’s good fortune but also its culture.

Diversity gives companies a unique competitive advantage providing different perspectives, life experiences and knowledge when working across international markets.

We must encourage this uniqueness and collaboration, inspiring each individual to use his or her distinctive strengths to coexist. One must place precedence of professional interests over moral grounds when hiring the right candidates, however the business case for diversity is undeniable.

Ultimately, diversity requires a long-term commitment to positive practices and a real dedication to a shift in perception towards equality. This is essential to understand the colossal benefits a multicultural workforce adds.

Imperative in business strategy, diversity adds profitability beyond that which can be simply measured financially – the idea of value. Challenges must be considered as opportunities to leverage goals and vision.

Diversity breeds diverse ideas, it opens mind and broadens horizons. It is the future of public relations.


Farzana Baduel is Founder & Managing Director of Curzon PR, a strategic public relations and communications agency with offices in London, New York, Dubai and most recently Delhi. Previously, Baduel served as Vice Chair of Conservative Business Relations.

Twitter: @farzanabaduel