Embracing diversity in the PR industry

While PR is a predominately white industry, more efforts are being made to diversify it. From the Taylor Bennett Foundation to BME PR Pros, there is support for more ethnic minorities to join the industry and create thriving careers.

I started my career with the amazing team at Taylor Bennett Foundation (TBF), which is dedicated to supporting BAME individuals to kickstart their careers in PR. Alongside a team of 8 interns, we embarked on a 10-week training programme, meeting PR teams across different industries and sectors to learn more about what they do and how. But one thing stood out to all of us. There were very few diverse figures to look up to. And the more corporate the sector was, the more evident it became.

Six months in, I was then introduced to Elizabeth from BME PR Pros. Elizabeth has gone above and beyond to create a space for diverse individuals to celebrate each other as well as voice their opinions and experience of the industry so far. Platforms like this are incredibly meaningful and I’m honoured to have taken part of BME PR Pro’s Winter Series last year.

Support networks like TBF and BME PR Pros have since helped me navigate my career without shying away from my background or my uniqueness.

While these external networks are incredibly important, I’ve also learnt how to voice my differences in my workplace. And here’s what worked for me:

Embrace your differences

Your uniqueness should be embraced. Feel proud of your cultural differences and attributes. People may have a few questions but if growing up as part of a diaspora has taught me anything, it’s to expect them. Yes, our differences can make us feel ‘othered’ at times, but your unique and personal experiences bring a whole new perspective to the table and that’s why you should voice it louder.

Set expectations and boundaries

Embracing your differences also means staying true to your values. Are there additional facilities or personal requirements that your colleagues should be aware of? Will you need regular prayer breaks, do you abstain from alcohol or is your team pronouncing your name wrong?

As uncomfortable as these things may be to flag to your team, it’s important that they understand and respect you as you are. It’s no fun if your colleagues are butchering your name or if you’re missing out on company events because you feel out of place. Flag it to your team and if your workplace is as accepting as mine, they’ll respect your values too.

Let everyone join the fun

One thing that has helped my team understand my values more is opening up my world to others. Before Ramadan last year, I hosted a lunch and learn on fasting 101. It gave everyone an insight into my daily routine throughout the blessed month and enlightened them on my personal beliefs and religious routine. And the best part, we sent out chocolate-covered dates to everyone in the business for Eid. Businesses often send out advent calendars for Christmas so it’s time for other cultural holidays to be embraced too, am I right?

I was able to celebrate my religious holiday with my colleagues and it felt good knowing that they understood the meaning behind it all. And you could do the same. Be it Hanukkah, Independence Day or even Día de los Muertos, having your colleagues support and celebrate your festive holidays warrants a whole new sense of belonging.

My experience will differ from others but opening up the conversation to diversity and inclusion is incredibly important to get the ball rolling and for businesses to embrace other cultures. Not everything will be down to us but flagging things like prayer breaks or dietary requirements may not be something your colleagues will consider or even be aware of.

Open up to a mentor at work and decide on the best course of action for you. Either way, embracing your differences is not only important for you but for your wider business as well.

Written by Nabila Mahmood​

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