In order to understand the importance of increasing diversity in the public relations industry, we need to know what the current statistics are. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2011 advertising, marketing and public relations jobs are held by a total of 8.7 percent African-Americans/Blacks, 7.3 percent Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders and 15.3 percent Hispanics/Latinos.

These are not accurate representations of the true diversity that exists in our nation. It is time for a wake-up call to all agencies and corporations that change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.

In order to reach the consumer, those creating communications campaigns must accurately represent the consumer marketplace and be able to understand the cultural nuances within the target audience. Simply translating an ad from English to Spanish won’t suffice.

So how can we make this change? While it is imperative to reach out to college students, there also needs to be an increase in diversity at the top. This means having more ethnic minorities who are executives and key decision-makers. By doing this, we can create a more diverse working environment, which means strategically successful campaigns that ultimately produce mean a greater return on investment.

The Lagrant Foundation is proud to be at the forefront of this change and is dedicated to continuing to foster diverse talent and help ethnic minority college students achieve success. In celebration of 15 years, the Foundation will award $250,000 to 36 ethnic minority students across the United States. The scholarships will be awarded to 22 undergraduate students and 14 graduate students. The students will be honored at two receptions; one in New York City on May 20th and one in Seattle on May 30th.

It is because of TLF that we are able to find a platform to celebrate diversity within advertising, marketing and public relations. By recognizing young, diverse talent we are able to create change within these industries. While TLF has made a significant impact in the communications industry, there is still more work to be done.

Stephanie Howley is senior vice president of human resources at Cohn & Wolfe and board member of The Lagrant Foundation, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Since its inception in 1998, TLF has awarded $1.56 million and 221 scholarships to ethnic minority students across the nation, and has helped place more than 200 students in internship and entry-level positions.