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Diversity Action Alliance Releases Second Benchmark Report

Report Shows that Public Relations and Communications Industry Continues to Lag Behind Expectations

NEW YORKJune 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Diversity Action Alliance (“DAA”), a coalition of public relations and communications leaders and industry organizations released its second annual Race and Ethnicity in Public Relations and Communications Benchmark Report (“Benchmark Report” or “Report”). The Report features data from fiscal years 2020 and 2021, documenting 90 U.S.-based public relations and communications organizations in 2020 and 56 organizations in 2021 that are all signatories of the DAA. The Report analyzes three key areas: racial and ethnic representation in organizations, segmented by position level and organization type; racial and ethnic breakdown of promotions in 2020 and 2021; and organizational demographics.

The annual publication of this Report aims to anonymously track the progress of the public relations and communications firms that partner with the DAA as part of their signatory commitment to the organization. One of the DAA’s visions is to mirror the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. population, which is about 40%, in the industry by 2025. While this edition’s sample set is smaller in number compared to the inaugural Report, the gathering of this data remains just as important to hold the industry accountable.


“The findings provided through our Benchmark Report are critical to communicators and leaders in this profession as we look to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) progress in the industry,” said Carmella Glover, President of the DAA. “While there was a momentous rush by corporations to make DEI a priority in 2020, we have seen in recent years a decline in progress and focus among organizations around DEI, which has impacted the responses in this Report. We encourage companies to dig deeper and think about their employee base and larger talent pool who may be experiencing diversity fatigue, a deprioritization of DEI at their organizations or other factors slowing much-needed progress. We believe that the slow-down in progress could lead to employees leaving their employers or even the industry altogether.”

Charlene Wheeless, DAA Board Chair, added, “It is imperative that organizations continue to provide their diversity data so we can improve DEI within our industry. The Benchmark Report highlights the trends we and our signatories are seeing across the public relations and communications industry, and it is disappointing to see such little progress just three years after companies are pointing to fatigue with diversity efforts, shifting priorities and economic concerns, we cannot allow factors to hinder our efforts in creating an environment that is supportive to all.”

Some key findings from the report include:

  • The Macro View: In 2020, the data showed 75% of all employees were white, with 25% being racially diverse. In 2021, diversity increased 8% across all organizations and position levels. 73% of employees were white in 2021, with 27% as racially/ethnically diverse. However, the sample size in 2021 was significantly smaller.
  • Racial and Ethnic Representation in the Industry is Slowly Increasing: Across all organizations and position levels analyzed, in 2020, 25% of employees were racially and ethnically diverse (6% Black/African American, 7% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Asian, 3% two or more races, and <1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander professionals, American Indian or Alaska Native professionals). In 2021, 27% of employees were racially and ethnically diverse (8% Black/African American, 7% Hispanic/Latino, 7% Asian, 3% two or more races, and <1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander professionals, American Indian or Alaska Native professionals). The 2019 report of 100+ signatories noted that only 21% of employees were racially and ethnically diverse.
  • Diversity in Leadership May Be Improving: In terms of leadership, organizations are largely less racially/ethnically diverse at the executive and top levels of leadership and become increasingly diverse moving into the mid-level, entry-level and admin ranks. In 2020, 93% of top communication or agency leaders were white, though this number slightly fell to 81% in 2021. Notably, more diversity can be found among mid-level (25%), entry-level (34%) and admin ranks (42%).
  • Promotion Rate Progress of Diverse Employees is Inconclusive: When looking at promotions in 2020 and 2021, 38% of employees who were promoted were racially or ethnically diverse in 2020. However, this number fell to 25% in 2021. It is notable that the sample sizes for promotion numbers were limited for this Report.
  • More Involvement by Senior Leadership in DEI: More than one-third of respondents in 2020 and 2021 reported having Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) or executives who primarily lead DEI initiatives. Regarding the person most responsible for DEI initiatives, next to CDOs, the President or CEO (20%) was the second most noted leader followed by CHROs (17%). Those two flipped as CHROs (24%) were noted as being more likely to be responsible than presidents or CEOs (19%) in 2021.

The DAA will release a new Report with data from 2022 in the fall of 2023. The data in the Benchmark Report reflects the contributions of DAA signatories that have committed to adopting innovative and successful practices, championing the importance of diversity for the industry, and sharing data annually as part of industry reporting.

To learn more about the current state of racial and ethnic representation in the public relations and communications industry, download the report.

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