WASHINGTON —  This year's Young Changemaker award winners came together today at the PRovokeGlobal summit in Washington to address the pressing issue of retaining BIPOC talent in public relations in a far-reaching discussion that  focused on what firms are doing right, what they are doing wrong, and alternative solutions to creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Representing the next generation of diverse leaders, the winners of the WE Communications awards — Stephanie Lett-Dawkins, Kandace Williamson, and Jean Linis-Dinco — shared their insights and experiences, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities within the industry. Their concerns are far and wide, starting with the going practice in the industry of lumping different minority communities together under blanket terms.

"I do not subscribe to the word BIPOC. It obscures class distinction. It obscures economic disparity. It’s reductive because it doesn’t take in the material conditions that have allowed racism to flourish,” said Linis-Dinco, a VPS data governance specialist.

Lett-Dawkins, an account supervisor at Citizen Relations, emphasized the untapped potential of BIPOC talent, highlighting that "there would be such a big return on investment, there would be more award-winning work done if there were more people of color at the table making decisions and sharing their thoughts."

Williamson, an account director at The Romans, stressed the importance of allyship, saying, "Being an ally is standing in your truth and admitting you don’t have all the answers."

The panelists emphasized the need to understand and empower underrepresented groups and communities. Williamson added, "When it comes to retention and making sure we are empowering these underrepresented groups, I think the first step is understanding that."

In the context of retention, the panelists discussed the challenges faced by individuals who haven't assimilated, emphasizing the importance of fostering a sense of community and understanding among employees.

The discussion delved into the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within organizations. Lett-Dawkins expressed the need for follow-ups on DEI training, stating, "I would have been a lot further a lot faster" if companies were more proactive in implementing such initiatives.

Williamson highlighted the importance of making individuals feel like they belong and encouraged companies to provide the right coaches, mentors, and opportunities to help employees move up the corporate ladder.

Linis-Dinco cautioned against treating DEI as a superficial solution, saying, "You cannot solve a systemic problem with Band-Aid solutions."

The panelists collectively agreed that DEI should not be pushed off during economic challenges. Williamson advocated for making DEI a central part of an agency's focus, stating, "It’s a disservice to push diversity to the backburner. It would be a bigger return on investment to over-index on DEI."