University of Florida’s Public Relations Student Society of America held their second annual “Diversity in PR” panel on March 31 in UF’s Reitz Union.



Panelists Included:


Ana Gomez, Edelman

Sharon Jones, Ketchum

Ric Katz, Balsera Communications

Steve Rothaus, Miami Herald


The panel was moderated by Deborah Bowie, president and CEO of United Way North Central Florida and inaugural Diversity in Public Relations panelist.


The purpose of the panel was to bring forth the issue of diversity and inclusion in the communications industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 9.8 percent of blacks and 7.7 percent of latinos and hispanics hold jobs in marketing, advertising and public relations industries. This significant underrepresentation of latinos, blacks and asian islanders screams that communications in the US has a diversity problem.


Moderator Deborah Bowie asked the panelists what each of them thought was driving the diversity problem in the indutry. Gomez, a UF alumna, said that the problem is a reflection of our society. She said minorities are expected to be engineers, scientist and follow other STEM career paths, while the communications industry historically was dominated by white males.


Katz, the owner of a spanish-oriented firm, said it is “incumbent on firms to go out and find (minorities).”


Katz said as he walked through UF’s College of Journalism and Communications that day, he did not see many african heritage people.


“We as a profession have to reach out to each other, find people and train as necessary.”


The next issue the panelists focused on was the difference between diversity and inclusion.


Jones said that most organization’s goals are to grow, and to include will push to accomplish this intention.


“To grow, [companies] need to differentiate from their competitors,” she said. “You have to create a culture where innovation and creativity can take hold and run rapid.”


Jones made a point that resonated with the audience. She said if an organization can think of their population as an ingredient, they can come up with rich and complex products. The better product that comes out of including population ultimately includes everything we need to come out with a better product.


Bowie asked the panelists in the final minutes to discuss personal narratives.


“What I love best about what I do is the opportunity to meet people at the beginning of the employee life cycle,” Jones said. ‘What you grow and develop, that is pretty gratifying for me.”


Katz and Rothaus are partners. This is the first time they have ever spoken on a panel together. Starting out early in his career, Rothaus was concerned how being a gay man may affect his career path.


‘The industry back then was not open to LGBT people,” he said.”


Katz, on his experience in the industry, laughed as he said “I’ve been in PR since I was seven years old.”


As a closeted gay young adult , he said he felt the need to be a communicator.


“I wasn’t going to be hiding, i was going to have a message,” he said.


Gomez got into the business because she was “fascinated by the power of influence that communication has.” “It’s something different everyday and there’s a value in that.”


It’s important to add a mixture of excitement into a career, as well as it is essential to add diversity in the workplace. More recently, not only has inclusion been about bringing diversity into the workplace, but putting these people in the positions to make decisions.


“It’s a smart business decision,” Jones said. Inviting diverse perceptions will lead to superior ideas.


Wrapping up the panel, panelists were asked to share the best advice they were given.


Sharon said the best advice she was given was “to be hungry.” Do not say no, do not be afraid of failure.


Rothaus said to trust yourself. Katz said that words matter, and Gomez said “be thankful and gracious to people who have helped us along the way,”


In her closing comments, Bowie reiterated the importance that communications is a field where it can not be done well if communicators don’t get to know different people. She said the more people and stories communicators expose themselves to, the better they will do.


“Diversity is all the ways in which we are the same and which we are different,” Jones said.


The world is changing, and if companies don’t include, they will be excluded from profitability, reputability and the capability of success.


This post was written by Sydney Denninger.