The PRCA Race and Ethnicity and Equity Board’s work has well and truly begun by tackling the ethnicity pay gap in PR and communications and demanding a psychologically safe, racist-free environment that is fair and equitable across all ethnicities. The conversations being had on the Board and with the wider industry are not easy. But as REEB’s Chair Barbara Phillips so aptly wrote, “it’s easier than having to hold your tongue, absorb microaggressions, and in some cases, crush your dreams in an effort to hold onto your job and enjoy some fleeting semblance of a career for years on end.”
The 12 REEB members bring their own unique experience and expertise to the table. As REEB’s work continues, we’re putting its members in the spotlight to find out what drives them, their PR journey and the Board’s priories moving forward.
1) As a member of the PRCA Race and Ethnicity Equity Board, what are you most looking forward to getting started on in the role?
We are all aware that the PR industry is not representative of the society in which we live and operate. This is reflected in the poor diversity numbers and the systemic biases within organisations. PRCA REEB has very well-defined terms of reference. Using that as a guiding document I am looking forward to working with the board, towards a more inclusive and fairer industry. This is our opportunity to push for real change and action.
2) What do you see as the main challenges to REEB’s aims and how will the board tackle them?
Racism and inequality are issues that have lived within wider society and business for decades, its’ not new. What 2020 has done is provide a springboard to accelerate action for changing the status quo. This has been spurred by two fundamental behaviour shifts a) People are not afraid or shy of demanding to be treated fairly b) Leaders in positions of power – people who are potential allies are standing up to be counted. While there is a lot of hope for the future, I am cautious about progress. There is a danger that this can all be a massive talk shop. Businesses may not see the need to dismantle systems or change systems that have worked so well for them. But to err on the side of optimism, I will say this is where PRCA REEB comes in. As an advocacy group we are well positioned to help leaders navigate the path to a fairer future for all.
3) How did you originally get started in public relations/communications?
I started out as a journalist because that is where my passion lay. My first stint was interning at a national newspaper in my hometown. However, I got married soon after, moved city and had a child all in quick succession. That sort of put paid to my journalism career.There was no grand design – it was by accident that I started with India’s largest independent agency at the time which partnered with Porter Noveli working in Mumbai on some incredibly prestigious mandates including India’s national carrier, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Tourism Board, LEGO (on it’s reentry strategy to India).
4) What are some of the projects you have been a part of during your career that you’re most proud of?
I have had a fairly fulfilling and prolific career so it is going to be difficult to choose favourites. I am really proud of my work at the Commonwealth Business Council promoting the Commonwealth as a trading block and setting up a Pan-Commonwealth Business Women’s Network. This afforded me extraordinary opportunities to travel across the world advocating with governments, multi-lateral organisations and the private sector for capacity building; speaking on the sidelines of the UN, at the WTO, at ministerial meetings and investment conferences. Something I will be grateful forever, is having had the opportunity to advise Tata Sons and group companies on a range of memorable campaigns/projects for 5 years. Turning around Ogilvy PR India gave me a career high, other campaigns include my work on IHG, DuPont, Board of Investment Mauritius. And in 2020 I am very proud of the work done volunteering as a campaign champion with Save the Children on Justice for Rohingya children.
5) What do you love most about working in the PR and communications industry, and would you still recommend this as a career?
I love the fact that trusted PR advisors have an opportunity to sit at the table and help organisations navigate their internal and external world as conscience keepers. That no two days are the same. That you have to constantly be learning about your client, their business, the external environment, the internal risks to be able to give them sound advise. I would definitely recommend this as a career. It is a great career choice for people with innate curiosity, interest in current affairs (local/global), confidence, ability to adapt and a passing love for grammar.
6) Can you share some of your experiences in the PR and comms industry that highlight some of what REEB talks of in the TOR?
My mandate at the Commonwealth Business Women’s Network was to mainstream gender concerns within the work of the Commonwealth Business Council, so I started my D&I 18 years ago. As a leader working across multiple markets I have seen the challenges faced by women and people from non-traditional backgrounds. Not being a part of the boys club, lack of informal networks and being different can exclude you from career opportunities. It can be soul destroying. I have experienced it and do not believe there should be barriers in any society today that stop people from reaching/fulfilling their potential.
7) If there was no REEB what would you being doing in this space?
I re-started my DEI learning journey three years ago and then in 2018 opted out to find my own purpose. I spent a fair amount of time and energy learning about the law, best practice, becoming a certified EDI Trainer and an Equality Champion to be well equipped to advise leaders. Last year I participated in the CIPR Race in PR Report because I was keen to share my experience.
I am also in the process of launching my consultancy ‘The Purpose Room’ focused on the intersection between organisational purpose, inclusion and reputation (It has been gestating for nearly a year now). My ambition for the future is to be able to use my experience to helpindividuals and organisations be more intentional and inclusive.
At the start of 2020 I also started planning my podcast ‘The Elephant in the Room’ (I did a three month course on ‘How to launch your podcast’ in the first quarter:) The podcast is a curated safe space to have uncomfortable conversations about the pervasive inequalities in society, our workplaces, celebrate role models and best practice. The idea was born from my sense of conflict about identity and fueled by the need to understand how my overlapping identities and experiences impacted and would continue to impact my life chances. There is a stellar line up of guests from across the world and I am grateful for their generosity and time. The trailer episode went live on 12th November, it is a weekly podcast. Listen to it here https://thepurposeroom.org/. And for once I will not be shy about acknowledging that I am very proud of what I haveachieved.
8) What is the most important thing the Board should focus on right now? (should be what- ever we are currently working on – Ethnicity paygap).
The current focus of the Board is the Ethnicity Pay Gap. To have this sort of inequality in to- day’s world should be unacceptable. In the recent past the Board has released guidance on how agencies can address their ethnicity pay gap and this was followed by a session with our ethnicity pay gap expert. PRCA REEB will continue to educate and nudge agencies in the right direction. By addressing the ethnicity pay gap we believe we will be helping to takedown one of the key barriers that separate people of differentcolours.
Written by Sudha Singh Chart.PR, MCIPR, MPRCA
Founder, The Purpose Room Ltd Podcast Host – The Elephant in the Room
Founding Member, PRCA Race & Ethnicity Equity Board(REEB); Member PRCA Diversity Network; Advisor PRADAN; Volunteer Campaign Champion, Save the Children