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In June 2020, Padilla outlined our commitments to do our part to help break the cycle of discrimination, racial injustice and inequity in our society – more specifically in the communications industry. This is in keeping with two of our Shared Beliefs – “Think as Many” and “Work Brave.”  

Our commitments included:

  • Reinforcing our zero-tolerance stance on bias, hate, xenophobia, and discrimination in the workplace and doubling down on our commitment to diverse recruiting and hiring practices.
  • Taking a deep look at our organization to assure that we are free of structural inequities and unconscious bias in our culture and creating a workplace that puts a priority on equality, diversity and openness.
  • Reinforcing our support for all employees by providing the resources and safe spaces where honest dialogue can take place.
  • Equipping ourselves and our teams with the education and the tools for each of us to do our part to address these difficult issues.
  • Encouraging our employees to speak freely and participate in social change and address any barriers that prevent them from doing so.
  • Partnering with our industry peers and community leaders – stepping forward to play a role in awareness, understanding and driving new behaviors to help break down the complex and deep-rooted norms that exist today.

Part of that commitment also included establishing a baseline for improvement. A year ago, Padilla shared our staffing demographics, along with many others in the communications industry, as part of #CommitToChange, started by 600 & Rising. We acknowledged then that we had work to do recruiting and retaining Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) team members and were committed to doing things differently.

Over the past year, we’ve made strides in living our Shared Beliefs and advancing our DE+I commitments:

  • We expanded the places where we recruit for diverse talent and strengthened or built relationships with professional organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, such as the Diversity Action Alliance, BrandLab, Hispanic Public Relations Association and others.
  • The agency also actively participated in DE+I efforts with the Public Relations Society of America and the PR Council, including its Agency-Ready Certificate program.
  • Like many in our industry, we increased our training efforts to address such topics as unconscious bias, allyship, LGBTQ+ representation and other subjects. This included bringing in a host of diverse outside speakers, consultants, professors, artists, and authors – as we worked to listen, learn and understand.
  • We also held listening sessions with our employees to give them an opportunity to have candid conversations about important topics. Not only did our employees participate in company-wide DE+I workshops and training, many worked to educate themselves on their own time. For example, a group in our Chicago office started a DE+I book club and discussion group.
  • Along with financial support to myriad nonprofit organizations – many involved in diversity, equity and inclusion work – our staffers also used their time and talents to volunteer with organizations such as Pillsbury United Communities and the YMCA of Greater Richmond. Padilla has a long history of philanthropy, which we outline each year in our Report to Our Communities.

Three initiatives that we’re most proud of are programs that we created or co-created related to DE+I:

  • The DE+I Collective – Padilla has assembled a diverse group of external advisors who are providing insight and guidance to ensure an inclusive, authentic and culturally appropriate approach to public relations and communications for our agency and our clients. This group of experts augments our internal resources.
  • Twin Cities PR BIPOC Career Explorer – Padilla joined with five other Twin Cities agencies to discuss what additional actions could be taken to address the racial inequities in our industry. The result is the first class of the Twin Cities PR BIPOC Career Explorer, which will begin this September. This is an externship program designed for BIPOC students interested in public relations and communications. We planned for 15-20 students in the first cohort but will have nearly 30 students participating in the program. During this seven-month program, students will (1) get a real-world look at the communications and PR agency profession through a direct-access learning program; (2) gain access to a network of professionals and mentors who can help connect with future internship opportunities and mentors; and (3) receive a stipend for participating.
  • Diversity + Inclusion Day of Service (DIDS) – To honor Juneteenth and create an opportunity for personal reflection and service, in 2020, Padilla established a Diversity + Inclusion Day of Service (DIDS). The agency offers employees one day off annually to perform community service related to diversity, equity and inclusion. How or when to volunteer is up to each employee. In 2020, “Get Out the Vote” initiatives for the November general election drew many employees, who worked to combat voter suppression by volunteering at polling locations and participating in letter writing campaigns. Other employees supported community service activities led by local nonprofits.   

Where do we stand since making our commitments a year ago?

We’ve made progress, but the reality is, we still have work to do – especially related to recruitment and retention. When we reported our employee demographics in July 2020, our BIPOC employee population was just shy of 10%. Today, we are at about 11%. We remain strong in our representation of women – with women outpacing men at every level of our organization, including at the leadership level (VP and above).

We will continue to expand our efforts to recruit diverse talent – at all levels within our organization. But recruitment isn’t enough. We also will continue our effort to retain great talent.  

Change doesn’t always come as quickly as we want, but we are not deterred. The old adage remains true: this is a marathon and not a sprint.

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