Early career professionals must engage to solve DE&I problems

Here’s how young PR pros can push for change from within their organizations.

The social unrest that unraveled during the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the expectations of young, emerging professionals.

According to Glassdoor, nearly 80% of job seekers consider the need for a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating job offers. Millennials and Gen Z are zeroed in on how companies are responding to systemic racism in and out of the workplace.

“Diversity is slowly becoming more prominent in the everyday public relations work environment through advanced education and dialogue,” says Samantha Saffold, a recent PRSA Silicon Valley Diversity and Multicultural Scholarship recipient and San Jose State University student. “In order to maintain a healthy work environment for all to feel secure in their career decisions, diversity training must be implemented and enforced.”

Focus on generating value

The LAGRANT Foundation Chairman and CEO Kim L. Hunter advises those early in their career to take the industry head-on by becoming engaged in these critical issues. Generating value for the team or company should be a focus in the first few years of someone’s career. Being involved with solving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues in the workplace is a must.

Early-career professionals can feel like they don’t have a say in how their company responds to systemic racism or that they can’t voice their thoughts and ideas for diversity initiatives—but that’s far from the truth.

Many organizations are looking for fresh new ideas to combat today’s systemic issues. Hunter says that emerging professionals who want to stand out should feel empowered to seize this opportunity to help create change. But, they should not be expected to do this on their own.

“It has to be a big group [of people], a big family, that is going to carry on what we say we are going to do,” said Hunter. “Hold people accountable. Don’t let the industry be complicit.”

Today, Millennials and Gen Z represent the majority of the U.S. population. These young professionals have the opportunity to set expectations from day one for what they want to see in the workplace. With organizations fearing the “Great Resignation”—people quitting their jobs for better opportunities—young workers have the upper hand.

As a young emerging PR professional, Saffold understands the business need for diverse perspectives in creatives fields, perspectives that can help organizations avoid the mistakes made by brands like H&M and Burger King.

“People of color and other marginalized communities have firsthand knowledge of what appropriate rhetoric should be used in the media,” she said. “In the realm of PR, a diverse staff is necessary because individuals of color are able to provide insight into sensitive topics or misphrased statements that may be miscommunicated by someone who has not experienced self-awareness.”

Create a culture of inclusion

Leaders looking to become engaged in solving DE&I problems should consider joining or establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within their organization and contributing to diversity efforts such as employee engagement or recruiting initiatives. Becoming involved in these efforts is one way to learn about how your organization is treading.

It can also help you gain a better understanding of what new perspectives you can offer that will help the organization create a culture of inclusion and belonging, and ultimately get one step closer to closing representation gaps in the industry.

Learn more by checking out PRSA Silicon Valley’s recent #FridayForum “Fostering Diverse Talent to Create a More Equitable & Inclusive Workplace” on the PRSA Silicon Valley Facebook Group page.

Jazmin Eusebio is an Account Executive and Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Specialist at Highwire PR, and a board member of PRSA Silicon Valley.

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