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We’re delighted to welcome Tara Tomes, the Founder and Managing Director of EAST VILLAGE PR to guest blog for us as she discusses diversity in the PR world. In the below post, hear about how Tara is making her own agency an inclusive place, changed her recruitment processes and has put things into place to create a working environment that’s flexible and open to all. 

The issue of diversity in PR certainly isn’t new but recent stats from the PRCA really brought things home. PR is a young (average age 28) female-led (64%) industry, which is largely great news, but only 34% of PR pros have children or dependents; suggesting that women aren’t returning to the profession after becoming parents. Why is this? Added to which, the industry is 91% white people, 89% of which are British, so quite clearly not representative of the country that we live in. It’s shocking that we’re still seeing stats like this, so we need to challenge the status quo and start to make changes!

This is something that I am extremely passionate about at EAST VILLAGE. We might be a small agency, but we have the power to make waves in our corner of the world, which is a narrative that I want more agency owners to hear.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a ‘solopreneur’, running a micro-agency or one of the ‘big boys’; you can still look at what you do, how you do it, what can be done better, and then hold yourself to account.

We’ve been doing a lot of this work at EAST VILLAGE. over the past couple of years. As an agency, we pride ourselves on being a business that not only has heart but wears it proudly on its sleeve and we launched the TeamEV Charter last year to drive change across everything that we do. It is a set of pledges and policies that focus on our commitment to diversity and inclusion, underline our pro-bono work for charities, outline how we encourage new talent into the business and support them through our ‘Grow Your Own’ scheme, ensure that we’re working alongside ethical brands and business owners, and put the team’s wellbeing at the heart of what we do. Just as we aim to make a positive impact for our clients’ businesses, we also have the responsibility to have a positive impact on our own people and the communities that we serve too.

There are some simple things that we’ve changed internally; from consciously using more representative imagery in campaigns and our own digital content, through to more fair and transparent recruitment processes with openly inclusive job descriptions. We’ve embraced flexible working as a way to encourage more people into our agency; dumping the traditional 9-5 commitment and exploring options that work for parents, part-time carers, and anyone else who might need a more flexible working pattern. It also helps that we’re leading by example with me, as a mixed-race business owner, showing that all-important diversity at the top!

Added to this, we’ve started working with the incredible Vanessa Belleau at High Fifteen, who’s an Equity and Inclusion Strategy Consultant. She’s supporting us on everything from our employer brand, through to delivering unconscious bias training for the team. The latter was a real eye opener!

I am also trying to step more into this space as a leader who is passionate about creating positive change and joining the AC’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board is absolutely part of this. I am also a founding member of BPFS Black Leaders Network, which is a group of established leaders from the West Midlands who have come together to demonstrate that diverse and inclusive leadership is a true driver for change and the key to unlocking the Business, Professional and Financial Services (BPFS) sector’s growth.

For me, the key to real, long-lasting change is understanding. We have to create safe spaces, give people time to change their thinking whilst also holding them accountable, but really shine a light on those who are doing it well. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; we should all share ideas and ways of working that make us better as people, but also bring our industries along for the ride too! We’re by no means perfect at this, but it’s about the effort that we put in and the way that we strive for change. We’re welcoming the first guy to TeamEV next month and our Kickstart roles, which we’re currently recruiting for, are focused on candidates from underrepresented communities so I’m excited to see an even more diverse team as we grow in the coming months.

About Tara Tomes, EAST VILLAGE PR

Tara Tomes established EAST VILLAGE in 2013. Having specialised in lifestyle PR from the start of her career, she’s delivered campaigns for the likes of Stella McCartney, BBC Good Food Show, Taste of Birmingham, Style Birmingham Live and International Dance Festival Birmingham. Her experience working with local independent retailers, internationally renowned fashion brands, acclaimed entertainment venues, award-winning arts venues and everything in between, means that TeamEV taps into strategy and expertise that spans more than 13 years in the industry.