Diversity: A Challenge Worth Welcoming

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Posted At: April 12, 2007 10:33 AM

by Miranda Yow

There is a growing commitment to diversity within the public relations profession—in both education and the practice, according to “The Professional Bond,” a report from the 2006 Commission on Public Relations Education. This commitment is the result of a change in society today. Dr. Michael Palenchar, assistant professor of PR, University of Tennessee, says, “Like society as a whole, the PR field finds itself struggling with the role of diversity.” He believes that PR education must focus on several key elements. At the core of PR scholarship should be the concepts of mutual respect, collaboration, appreciation for a wide range of perspectives and the creation of a platform for the open and transparent engagement of the marketplace of ideas.”

Palenchar explains that diversity encompasses much more than gender or ethnicity. He says, “It is about intellectual diversity, experiential diversity and workplace diversity.”

Dr. Amanda Gallagher, assistant professor at Texas Tech University, agrees that diversity plays a lead role in PR today. She says, “PR is facing issues of diversity and they are shaping how the field is developing.” A large part of the PR work force is made up of women, and, Gallagher says, “Among PR students today, 70-80 percent of them are women.” Therefore, she believes that students should be educated on this change in the work force. At Texas Tech, Gallagher teaches a course centered on women in PR, in which students learn how women can advance their careers in the PR workforce today.

Gallagher is not the only educator who believes that students should know about this change of diversity in the workforce. Dr. Lynne Sallot, associate professor, University of Georgia, believes that PR is an excellent career choice for women. As the women today grow in their careers, Sallot says, “They will have very prestigious and powerful career opportunities in management that women in other professions do not yet enjoy.” Sallot also believes that there should be more done to inform people of other diversities about PR and invite them to consider it as a career. As Palenchar observed, “I have had the pleasure to work with an eclectic range of students, peers and supervisors, and have gained from their diversity of thought and perspective, as much as their diversity of gender or ethnicity.”

E-mail: Dr. Amanda Gallagher
E-mail: Dr. Lynne Sallot 
E-mail: Dr. Michael Palenchar

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