Shanil Nayee graduation

Diversity isn’t a tick box exercise, it’s a priority for comms to thrive

Shanil Nayee

19 Sep 2017

Diversity is discussed in all industries as a crucial challenge, and particularly so in the communications world. But what is being done to close the inequality gap? In this post I’m going to explain my own experience in carving out a comms career in the hope of inspiring others to do the same. My route to PR wasn’t straightforward. I found it quite difficult to break into the industry initially. In fact, my first full-time role didn’t come until a year and a half after I left university. I always remained confident about entering the profession but found myself far from it until a year after education, at which point I secured a place on the Taylor Bennett Foundation. The Taylor Bennett Foundation is a charity dedicated to improving diversity figures in the PR and communications industry. It gives you a fantastic opportunity to gain an in-depth insight of the industry, learn from some of the best practitioners and build an invaluable network. Not only did it give me my first paid role in communications, it also opened the door to countless opportunities. But the Taylor Bennett Foundation is dedicated to much more than just placing Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates in work – it strives to address the need for greater diversity levels in public relations. Without diversity, comms would be a much worse place. The sector thrives on creative ideas that are inherently different from one another. Embracing concepts from different cultures and backgrounds can encourage original ideas and have a positive impact on the wider industry. There is also a much bigger issue to tackle that everyone involved in comms must act now to solve: doing more to educate the youth of today about the options available to them. My parents weren’t exactly content when I chose to go into PR, but I think that’s purely because no-one ever explained what PR is to them. It isn’t exactly advertised early on in education, or at all for that matter. In order for diversity to flourish, comms must be better explained as a career choice at early education stages – the industry needs to be better at promoting itself (we do it for our clients every day – why not do it for ourselves?) and working alongside educational institutes. As an individual you must remain determined as well, given how notoriously competitive this industry is. Throughout the early stages of my career I always valued the importance of role models. For example, I have followed Amol Rajan, the current BBC Media Editor, ever since his days at the Independent as I found it inspiring to see someone from a BAME background succeed. Legendary broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald is another example of someone that I always looked up to. He and Amol both broke the glass ceiling and motivate me to do exactly the same in comms. Ever since the inception of the Taylor Bennett Foundation in 2008, 83% of the 170 trainees have gone on to work in the comms industry. I donate £10 every month to the programme. And I don’t just do it because I feel I should – I genuinely believe that without it young people from BAME backgrounds would find it even more difficult to thrive in the early stages of their comms career. And I can confidently say that without the programme I would not be where I am today.