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We need to create environments where Black talent feels welcome, seen and respected, says Jennifer Ogunleye, Tech PR Lead for KPMG.


As someone who’s worked for various PR firms, all of which have proved to be exciting and enjoyable, I must say my biggest takeaway is how important networking is – particularly in providing young people with the opportunity for mentorship.  


When I became aware of the PR industry and decided I wanted to be a PR practitioner, I was determined to work hard and get a seat at the table. My father had instilled in me from a young age that anything I set my mind to, I can achieve, and it’s safe to say that so far he’s been right – but that doesn’t mean it’s been without obstacles.  


I can only advise those who want to join this industry, full of boundless opportunities, to put your pride, insecurities or whatever it might be that you wrestle with internally – aside, and ask for help when you need it. Networking events and LinkedIn are great places to meet people who you wouldn’t normally have access to who may be able to provide you with the tools or confidence you need to help achieve your dreams. Connect with the people who inspire you, and when you find those mentors or sponsors who make you feel comfortable asking the so-called “stupid” questions – hold on to them.  


In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we saw the world respond in a way that I haven’t during in my generation, where people worldwide were trying to understand and educate themselves on the issues of racism and prejudice faced by minority groups. The PR industry was no exception. But understanding the complexities of racism can be difficult, oftentimes environments that look diverse still have work to do because there are other issues which are left unaddressed, from ethnic pay gap, to unconscious bias.  


Instances of microaggression can be unconscious and can seem harmless and therefore they are one of the hardest things to manoeuvre because even the allies around you may not notice unless they have personal experience themselves.  


It’s the overfamiliarity in asking to touch someone’s hair, using colloquial “cultural” language directed at the Black colleague alone in a professional or social setting, and it can escalate right up to making unbearable borderline racist jokes.  


All of these are probably experiences your colleagues go through at work. You might have even witnessed and thought nothing of it at the time, but these little things are not so little when they are constant and from numerous sources throughout the working day. Really, these aren’t things I still want to be hearing about when my kids enter the workforce so it’s time we listened to one another and created an environment that is for everyone, all ethnicities.  


My PR career has been exciting, educational, and has left me singing the praises of this industry to anyone that will listen. Having said that, of course there are still some things we need to address. Young people from diverse backgrounds come into corporate spaces which haven’t been built with them in mind. Yes we all have to make adjustments when learning to navigate professional environments but if businesses want us to “bring our whole selves to work” they need to understand that we’re not all going to fit into a one-size-fits all way of going about things.


I truly hope we get to the stage where the PR industry is no longer advocating for diversity – but is an example of how a diverse, inclusive, creative industry looks and feels. We all need to be part of that change.


Jennifer Ogunleye is the Tech PR Lead for KPMG.