Am I too Black to Be in PR?

May 2013

I was excited to get into a profession that I felt was the most impactful and contributing to the future I wanted for my life. With the way the world was going with global warming, eco-feminism on a rise and environmental hazards on a rampant.. studying Environmental Studies felt like the right thing to do .

Or so I thought.

When I found out what PR was I knew without a shout of a doubt that this was something I would hands down KILL ( in the most NON-violent way)

I know I’m sociable

I know I’m good at conflict resolution

I’ve loved to write my entire life

PR was essentially a collaboration of them all in ONE.

It literally just felt right.

May 2016

I graduated from Seneca College’s Corporate Communications program ( with honours) and was ready to take on the world.

During the duration of the program I was one of two black girls in the class which I then thought would work out as an advantage for me.

I thought that being a minority woman in a avenue dominated by everyone BUT black woman I would stand out and take over.

Ha.

Less than half of the girls in my program were in the internship division and were fortunate to have been able to get hands on experience in agency environments before officially graduating . They were able to go a few days a week to not only PR agencies but intern at hospitals and Fortune 500 corporations within the Investor Relations and Corporate Communications departments.

Upon graduating, we all decided the best way to keep in contact was via LinkedIn, seeing as our teachers and professors already expressed to us how essential LinkedIN would be in not only connecting with others but also job applications.

Months passed after graduation and I saw many of my colleagues updating their statues showing that they were now either working for the companies they interned with or were hired in a PR/Corporate Communications department at a major corporation or agency.

Immediately I felt a way, I won’t lie.

I didn’t understand how they were all getting hired at these agencies that I only DREAMED of , yet here I was searching up a storm, applying until I got carpal tunnel and received phone interviews or emails but never the opportunity to get hired .

Something had to have been wrong with my resume?!

But I made my resume with the teachers..

The same teachers all the other girls made theirs with..

What was I Alicia Sarah Harper doing wrong.

I knew I had a good amount of working experience in not only high end retail but also worked as a social media/ marketing coordinator while at Seneca studying PR.

Imagine how I felt …

Half of the girls were flourishing, posting pictures at events and in “office” selfies.. while I continued to struggle to find myself something within the fields that almost $10k was invested towards.

I swear to you I cried .

Real tears..

I felt defeated.

Life was truly in my eyes unfair and working against me for reasons unknown to me .

Determined that it wasn’t me and it had to be something deeper I started to research. I started looking up known as well as boutique agencies looking into who worked there, the contribution that they had to the company and the ethnicity of the prominent workers.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 87.9% white, 8.3% African American, 2.6% Asian American, and 5.7% Hispanic American.”

Sadly I was unable to find enough statistics surrounding the PR field in Canada but stats aside I have seen it with my own two eyes. A large majority of these boutique firms that represent a wide range of known and unknown beauty and lifestyle brands are mostly employing everyone BUT women of colour.

I don’t say this as an accusation but as a fact.

I have scrolled on many websites for firms clicked on the “Executive Team” link only to see no representation and no woman or man who looks even remotely close to how I look.

How can we say we live in a progressive world where #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter when some of the biggest firms don’t even have an equal representation of “everyone” on the team. It is already hard enough for me to be a woman in a industry that most of my counterparts are males, but to want to be apart of a Agency/ PR Family and time after time feel like my rejection has less to do with my credentials or lack of but more to do with my complexion, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The face of the industry needs to be changed. Toronto is known world-wide as being one of the most culturally DIVERSE and accepting cities, yet in many positions of power and places of opportunity I see no diversity.

More diverse companies, according to McKinsey&Company, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making.

Ive gone to interviews and seen the faces and lack of enthusiasm by my interviewers, seeming to be more impressed by my resume than the actual appearance of who I am.

I have never wanted to feel regret or shame for being born a black women, yet have had many moments where I thought to myself maybe  if I was bi-racial, or maybe If I was lighter then certain clients or firms would  be more inclined to want me as apart of the “team”.

Imagine graduating in 2016 and 2018 comes and still no offers, no internship acceptances… nothing.

I don’t consider this to be a blog post per-say.

I consider this to be an unofficial wake up call, a glass desk sticky note to these agencies , firms and companies.

We don’t bite!

We are just as qualified as our counterparts.

We have big plans and visions that can be executed as well.

We can put our best foot forward and prove ourselves.

We just need the chance.

The more inclusive and diverse an environment is the easier it is to address all clients from all walks of life.

Combat the stereotypes!

Go against the grain and show Women of Colour that inclusivity is apart of your company morals and values.

Maybe it’s just me?

Maybe I am over analyzing and there is a market for woman who look like I do..

As I sit against my bedhead, ordering pizza huts 50% off deal of the week, I ask myself

“Am I too Black to be in PR?…

If not..

Prove me wrong.

xoxo

Lici.

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