Arun Sudhaman 22 Jun 2020 // 9:00AM GMT
PRovoke today publishes diversity and inclusion data for its 2019 events, awards juries and editorial portfolio — along with a series of minimum targets and commitments that we will hold ourselves publicly accountable to from 2020 onwards.
As the foremost media and events platform for the global PR industry, PRovoke recognises it has a crucial role to play in addressing systemic racial exclusion, and is committed to driving real change wherever it can.
The international nature of PRovoke's footprint means that the focus will be on systemically under-represented groups in the various regions in which the company operates. In general, this means Black executives and people of colour (PoC) — but in specific regions (like India and Latin America, for example) we are currently engaged in conversations to better understand how to improve inclusion for under-represented communities.
These commitments and targets are informed by such initiatives as the Call for Change, the Blueprint, as well as our own lengthy track record of covering this area. We are open to all ideas, suggestions, feedback and — of course — constructive criticism as to how we can help.
When selecting executives for our events, SABRE juries and so forth, a range of considerations come into play. Seniority is often chief amongst them, lending a bias towards heads of functions and agency CEOs — an executive level that is overwhelmingly white.
We cannot ignore that this kind of thinking reinforces systemic bias, because it excludes people of colour from public platforms that not only help advance their careers, but also provide tangible examples of what that advancement looks like. Unless the industry sees more people of colour on public platforms, they will continue to be excluded from them. And unless more people of colour are featured on these platforms, they will continue to be excluded from the career benefits that accrue from these opportunities — all of which slows down the overall rate of change in the public relations industry.
The diversity and inclusion data and targets outlined below will henceforth be published on an annual basis by PRovoke. Furthermore, these targets and commitments will form part of the criteria we consider when it comes to the bonus and compensation incentives of our leadership team — namely, myself as CEO, chair Paul Holmes and chief product officer Aarti Shah. Improving diversity within our editorial and events will also become part of the performance evaluation for all members of the PRovoke team.
In 2019, 68% of the 251 speakers that featured at PRovoke events across the globe were white. A 32% proportion of PoC sounds good compared to the industry average of 12% in the US and the UK, but this is where topline figures require some interrogation. If you remove our India Roundtable, for example, the proportion of PoC drops to 19%.
Our North American events, including our flagship Global Summit, were 80% white. Of more concern, only 5% of our speakers in North America were Black. Clearly, this is unacceptable. In EMEA, 28% were PoC and 9% were Black. Our Cannes events were 77% white, with only one Black speaker.
In some regions, the data is more encouraging. In Asia-Pacific for example, 60% of our speakers were from non-white backgrounds. In the Middle East, 57%, and in Davos, 33%.
Accordingly, PRovoke commits to the following minimum targets regarding its event portfolio, including all conferences, roundtables and bespoke events. We will publish our data on an annual basis and report our progress on all of these criteria.
- 35% of our speakers will be PoC across all events on an annual basis
- 35% of our speakers will be PoC per geographic region on an annual basis
- 35% of our speakers will be PoC per individual conference (excluding India)
- 15% of our speakers at conferences in the US and UK will be Black
- Every PRovoke session or panel of more than three people will aim to include at least one PoC. This includes our Cannes CEO Roundtable, where we will actively seek more diverse voices from agencies.
- We call on agencies to include their sponsored PRovoke sessions within their diversity commitments and anti-racism policies. This means that they must commit to these targets for their sessions; sponsors will be held accountable against these criteria, which will be clearly communicated in all of our partnership information.
Once again, the topline figures look good. 38% of our 284 SABRE jurors across all of our 2019 competitions were from non-white backgrounds in 2019. But, once again, the results become more uncomfortable once we start drilling down, and are skewed by the SABRE Awards South Asia and LatAm juries.
In North America, 86% of judges were white. In EMEA, that proportion rises to 91%. Across the two regions, Black judges account for just 2%. Only 34% of our Africa jury was Black. We have to admit that this is not good enough.
Meanwhile, in Asia-Pacific, (excluding the South Asia jury) only 34% of judges were white, reflecting the strides that Asians have made in a region that often seems to prefer expatriate leadership of its PR firms.
Accordingly, PRovoke commits to the following minimum targets regarding its SABRE juries. We will publish our data on an annual basis and report our progress on all of these criteria.
- 45% of our SABRE jurors will be PoC across all competitions on an annual basis
- 50% of our SABRE Africa jury will be Black
- 35% of our SABRE North America and EMEA juries will be PoC
- 15% of our SABRE North America and EMEA juries will be Black
- We call on agencies and corporates to include their juror nominations within their diversity commitments and anti-racism policies.
PRovoke's two primary executive lists are the Influence 100 (comprising 100 global in-house communications leaders) and the Innovator 25 (spotlighting 25 'changemakers' in North America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific).
The Influence 100, in particular, has long struggled with diversity and inclusion, as it prioritises the heads of communications and marketing functions. Once again, we believe that this kind of change must be made visible for it to happen — including more PoC on this list is one way to ensure that they are more often considered for leadership roles.
When the Influence 100 first launched, around 90% of the list was white. We have since made a conscious effort to redress this imbalance. In the 2019 version, 23 of the 100 executives were PoC. But only 4 were Black.
Of the 75 people on last year's Innovator 25, 63% were White, which is encouraging. 76% of the Americas Innovator 25 was white, but only 8% were Black. In EMEA, 80% were white and 8% were Black.
Accordingly, PRovoke commits to the following minimum targets regarding its Influence 100 and Innovator 25 lists. We will publish our data on an annual basis and report our progress on all of these criteria.
- 25% of the Influence 100 will be PoC and 15% will be Black
- 35% of the Innovator 25 will be PoC on a global basis
- 35% of the Innovator 25 in EMEA and North America will be PoC
- 15% of the Innovator 25 in EMEA and North America will be Black
- We call on agencies and corporates to include their Influence 100 and Innovator 25 nominations within their diversity commitments and anti-racism policies.
To support these efforts PRovoke also commits to the following steps to help advance racial equity in our coverage and benchmarking of the PR industry:
- Agency diversity and inclusion data and reporting will become overt criteria in our Agencies of the Year and Best Agencies to Work For research.
- We extend our zero-tolerance policy to racism to encompass all SABRE entries and campaign work that we assess and publish.
- We are currently building a list of Black and PoC executives to serve as a global database of voices, spokespersons, speakers and jurors. To add to this list, please contact us.
- We will also apply the same targets to the imagery we choose to use across our editorial and social media presence.
- We will open up our platform, specifically our social media accounts and PRovoke podcast, to guest hosts from under-represented communities on a regular basis. To get involved, please contact us.
- These targets follow our existing commitment to ensure 50% of our speakers and listed executives are female across all of our platforms, which remains in place and will form part of our annual diversity and inclusion reporting.
- PRovoke's eight-member team is 25% PoC, including two-thirds of its leadership. We commit to increase that proportion and to prioritise measures that improve the diversity of our various suppliers and freelance network.