It's time for PR to fix its cishet bias
In today’s world inclusivity is of top concern for consumers. Things like racial, cultural, gender, and identity diversity are areas the younger generations are looking for in employers and companies. In fact, according to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider diversity an important factor when they compare potential jobs. On top of that, 57% of people think their company should be doing more to increase diversity in the workplace.
Public relations is one of the fields that could do better. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 87.9% white, 8.3% African American, 2.6% Asian American, and 5.7% Hispanic American.” Along with that, the pay gap between men and women is $6,000 on average. These are statistics well studied in the PR world, and there are steps being taken to make these discrepancies smaller.
One area that is seldom talked about is PR’s inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals. This is so rarely discussed there are little to no extensive studies in the US about the topic. A 2019 study from the UK found that the PR industry is 89% white and heterosexual. Those identifying as transgender or lesbian both made up less than a percent and gay men were the most represented in the industry. This shows a considerable bias towards whiteness and heterosexuality, and a clear preference towards gay men who fit into the idea of what queer people should look like. With little to no American research on the topic, it's clear steps are not being taken to be more inclusive of queer and trans people.
This is almost hypocritical because during Pride month we see companies slap rainbow flag after rainbow flag on their logos, commercials, and products. All in an effort to win public approval and be viewed as tolerant or welcoming. However, who are the executives approving and creating these rainbow messages? Overwhelmingly cishet white men.
This is an issue because PR is an industry that prides itself on being ‘woke’ and with the times. It’s an industry that would advise a client to sponsor a float at a Pride parade, use drag queens to promote a product, or release a rainbow logo in June but won’t bring that same mentality to the workroom.
This is an industry pushing for diversity and authenticity but can’t center diverse voices in their own offices. This facade of inclusivity does nothing to move American culture towards being more inclusive. Instead, it continues to revolve around the opinions of cishet white men and who they think should get a seat at the table. Which time and time again are other cishet white men.
If PR actually values the voices of the LGBTQ+ community they would include them in the workroom and office, not just in the media and messaging the job requires. If PR actually
cared about the community they would hire qualified practitioners, consult queer-owned firms, and include LGBTQ+ voices in executive leadership.
Clearly, the PR industry cannot wake up tomorrow and fix its cishet bias, but it can implement small changes in an effort to shift the culture of the industry. Changes like mandatory allyship training and education, creating employee resource groups, quickly responding to claims of discrimination, participating in/sponsoring local LGBTQ+
events, and creating a gender-neutral office environment can all be small steps towards greater inclusion for LGBTQ+ people.
By Zac Strater
Zac was born in Chicago, Illinois but currently resides in San Diego, California. Zac is a third-year Journalism-Public Relations major with a minor in TV, Film, and Media. After graduation, he hopes to move to Los Angeles and start a career in creative writing and content creation.