Today’s headlines surrounding racial injustices are affecting all of us on personal and professional levels. From our vantage point here at Mariner, it is uplifting to see so many professional associations/chapters responding with renewed commitments towards making diversity, equity, and inclusion a pillar of their mission. We are particularly moved by the conversations and actions of PRSA Maryland.
As with many chapters, the leadership of PRSA Maryland, which is based in Baltimore, has been looking for a path towards more diversity within its leadership and membership ranks for a while. It has, however, been a struggle knowing how to proceed, much less finding the volunteers to commit to this daunting initiative. Conversations were started but never fully followed through. That changed with the recent protests. After a frank (and at times difficult) discussion, the Board of Directors knew that there was no more time for delay; there was only time for action. And take action is what they did.
The first step was to publish an open letter from the Board to its members recognizing systemic racism and the responsibility of the Chapter to advocate for equality within the association and throughout the communications industry. The Board promised to first take an honest look at where the Chapter has failed and what it needs to do to solicit change within its own ranks. But as we all know, the initial statement is only the first step. The Board started the process with the following promises:
- Host a virtual chat (held on June 18) with members to discuss what the Chapter has/has not done and where to go from here including actionable steps that can be taken ensure recruiting, programming, events, and membership are more equitable, inclusive and diverse. Personal Tip from the chat: develop a personal declaration to guide your actions and how you can take this to the next level in your personal and professional life.
- Appoint an ambassador for diversity and inclusion to develop and oversee the DE&I strategy and goals. Note: The June 18 chat spurred two participants to volunteer to lead the initiative. They will be working over the summer to build the committee and begin working on a strategic plan to be launched in January 2021.
- Continue the conversation from the 2018 and 2019 annual conferences with expanded dialogue at the 2020 conference on racism in Baltimore, and specifically in our industry, and systematic ways to overcome it.
- Encourage member agencies and companies to provide internship, scholarship, and employment opportunities for BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) to build the type of diverse talent who will be able to soar/excel in an agency or firm environment.
PRSA Maryland has made an earnest commitment to its members to act, and we are looking forward to seeing the Chapter lead the way towards a more diverse and inclusive industry. What are your chapters doing to start the conversation? Let us know!