Megan Miller 07 Mar 2023 // 8:12PM GMT
On the eve of International Women’s Day, PRovoke Media editor-in-chief Arun Sudhaman joins WE Communications Global CEO and Founder, Melissa Waggener Zorkin, and 2022 Young Changemaker Award recipient, Mubashira Farooqi, to discuss the state of diversity and representation across the PR and Communications industry.
The discussion comes in advance of tomorrow’s announcement naming this year’s Young Changemakers Award recipients. Farooqi, one of three 2022 recipients, hosts the podcast, “Color Me PR,” which is dedicated to spotlighting women of color in the communications, media and creative fields, about their journeys, challenges and experiences in the industries.
“The fact is that communications is an industry that holds so much power,” she says. “As communicators, we are responsible for carrying and for sharing the messages between organizations and people. And with that responsibility, I think it's incredibly important for us to share our voices.”
Waggener Zorkin, holds the same perspective and believes agency leaders need to prioritize diversity not only in terms of representation, but also diversity of ideas and the processes in which those ideas are shared and acted upon.
“It's not just numbers—although it is numbers, person by person, by person—but it is also the way we think,” Waggener Zorkin says, “[It’s] the way we do things, even the way we come up with the programs and the counsel that we provide, and the way we treat one another and build our companies.”
To illustrate her point, Waggener Zorkin recounted one of her initial meetings with Farooqi, recalling how the two talked about the importance of speaking to the world with something that's reflective of what the world is made up of.
It was a similar sentiment on representation that served as the original seed for Farooqi’s podcast.
“That's why I ended up launching the podcast that I did. I felt like there wasn't enough representation of diverse perspectives and lived experiences,” Farooqi says. “And those are critical for us as communicators and as leaders in the consultation that we provide, to understand these diverse perspectives. And I just don't feel like we've seen enough of that.”
For Farooqi, the experience of being named an inaugural Changemaker, not only provided a new platform for her voice to be heard, but also provided her with confidence in her company’s commitment to elevating diverse, young voices. “I think it's a testament to the organizations that nominate their young people for this award. If you really want to show that you're an organization that values the voices and perspectives of its diverse, young professionals, then you'll create opportunities for them that go beyond yourself and your organization, she says.
"My company, Fleishman [Hillard], didn't get much out of me receiving this award beyond the insights I got from attending the summit, or from building my career a little bit further. But the fact is that they are on this mission to be one of the most inclusive agencies in the world, and part of that means showing up for your young people, and championing them wherever you can”
Sudhaman and Waggener Zorkin’s respective companies launched the Young Changemakers Award in 2022 out of a shared desire to call leaders across the industry to a higher order.
“I wanted to start with that— that this is not about my company, and it's not really about yours either,” she says, “It's about everybody joining and really making their face-by-face a much bigger group.”
“I couldn't agree more,” Sudhaman says, “It really isn't about our companies, it's far more about the program and the work that's being done.”