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Voices from Past Diversity Chairs on the Current State of D&I

By Stephanie Thara
2017 OCPRSA Diversity Chair

PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Month

In honor of PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Month, we wanted to feature the voices of some of our past Diversity Chairs for this month’s “Real Talk” blog. Since 2004, the OCPRSA Diversity Committee has implemented innovative programs and initiatives to raise awareness about diversity & inclusion (D&I) in public relations, as well as inform OCPRSA members and the local community about the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce in our industry. Some of our most notable achievements include:

• Earning the coveted PRSA Chapter Diversity Award nine times in our 13-year history (eight of the nine were consecutive wins!)

• Hosting the Chapter’s 10th Annual Diversity Forum, “Moving the Needle: Exploring the Past Decade of Diversity in Business, PR and Communications”

• Launching a “Real Talk” initiative, where leading communications professionals speak candidly about issues that affect D&I in the public relations profession through events and monthly blogs

• Partnering with the local community to advance D&I, including collaborating with the Latino Communications Initiative at California State University Fullerton

We caught up with some of our past Diversity Chairs to get some of their thoughts on the current state of D&I not only in the public relations industry, but throughout the nation:

“In recent years, Orange County has experienced incredible growth in ethnic and diverse populations and has become a ‘majority minority’ community. Today, it has become a business necessity for organizations to embrace diversity in all that they do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.5% of people employed in public relations in 2014 were Hispanics, and as an organization, in 2010, only 3.75% of PRSA membership were Hispanics, 6.5% were African Americans, and 3% were Asian Americans. It is clear that we as a profession and an association have much work to do to increase diversity in our profession to clearly reflect the communities in which we do business.”
Judy Iannaccone (OCPRSA Diversity Co-Chair 2004-2006; Director of Public Affairs & Publications at Rancho Santiago Community College District)

“Our principals of diversity and inclusion are under siege right now by those who have been emboldened by Mr. Trump’s inflammatory words and speeches. Although racism, bigotry and xenophobia have been here all along, these people are still a minority. We still have work to be done, and our response should be to be just as vocal and vigilant, without the vitriol and certainly without the violence.”
Corin Ramos (OCPRSA Board Member and Co-Chair Diversity Committee 2007-2011; Realtor at Keller Williams Realty Group One, Inc.)

“For over the past 10 years, I have been a vocal advocate and champion for diversity and inclusion in the public relations profession and PRSA. I have seen great success, wins, best practices, and progress. However, we must not stop. Today, more than ever, we need everyone to step up and be an engaged voice for diversity & inclusion. Equally important is for us to not only have a seat at the table, but to have a voice in the room – for those in the room and at the table, we must empower others to use their voice. It’s one thing to be invited, but it’s worthless unless we have a voice. If we do this, we will become a more successful, thoughtful, and inclusive industry. Diversity transcends the color of your skin, your gender, who you love – it’s diversity of thought, perspective, and opinion. If we can have inclusive conversations and dialogues where we welcome difference of opinion, imagine how much further we will be as the PR profession but as a society. In this current climate, there is a lot of angst, fear, unknowing and quite frankly, ignorance. But if we get to understand where others are coming from, and learn to respect those opinions (while they may differ from our own), we will be that much closer to becoming a more inclusive industry that is truly diverse. We need to make those first steps; once we do, imagine the possibilities. Diversity and inclusion isn’t about me, it isn’t about you, it’s about all of us and at the end of the day, how wonderful life would be if we are all included.”
Laarni Rosca Dacanay (OCPRSA Diversity Co-Chair 2008 & 2009, OCPRSA Diversity Advisor 2010-2013; PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee Social Media Co-Chair 2015-present; PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member 2006-present; External Communications Manager at Comcast NBCUniversal)

“As I enter my second decade as a PR professional, I find myself both hopeful–and skeptical–of the state of diversity in our industry. Whereas, I’m glad to see the needle moving steadily forward in fostering greater inclusion and diversity in hiring and promotion practices, organizations need to remain mindful that they are not just ‘checking a box.'”
Bridget Jackson (OCPRSA Diversity Co-Chair 2010; Public Affairs and Communications Advisor at NeighborWorks America)

“As varied as people’s many opinions, perspectives and outlooks, diversity is that which has its own meaning to every individual. The millennial. Truck driver. Corporate executive. Retiree. Army corporal. Japanese American. The list is limitless. Diversity is steeped in reality. It’s inescapable. It defines our makeup. Therefore, it is to be embraced on all levels.”
Angela Burrell, APR (OCPRSA Diversity Chair 2011 – 2013; Public Relations Manager at Allied Universal)

“It’s definitely an interesting time and discussing diversity is more important than ever. Recent events reinforce the need for continued support of the diversity committee’s efforts. Now more than ever we must continue to be open and have conversations about diversity and fully embrace inclusion. It’s always been important from my time with the OCPRSA Diversity Committee to make sure that all points of views, backgrounds and experiences are embraced to make the best decisions for a company, client or organization. It’s never a good idea to make assumptions.”
Pamela (Crouch) Leonard (OCPRSA Diversity Chair 2014; Community Outreach Manager at Silicon Valley Clean Energy)

“As Diversity Chair in 2015, I was more optimistic about the future of diversity and inclusion in our profession and country than that I am today in 2017. However, I believe that most PR and communications practitioners are inherently aware of the stakes within the field for understanding and embracing these characteristics in everything from the workforce to content development. And that with continued dialogue, research and tactics, we can make progress despite the highly volatile environment facing our society as a whole.”
Charla Batey, MBA (OCPRSA Diversity Chair 2015; Communications & Events Officer at UCI Libraries at UC Irvine)

 

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