We are in the midst of a long overdue reckoning in our country on racial justice and equity, and with that comes a need for a more critical look at our own firm’s track record: what we’ve achieved, where we have fallen short and how we can improve. Just as we have worked to lift up clients leading efforts across the country to advance racial, social and economic justice, we are committed to continue doing the work internally to make our own company more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
While we have made progress in recent years, there is much more work to do to fully meet our ideals as an organization.
Where we are today
- 26% of our leadership team and nearly 40% of our staff self-identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC). This compares to: 13% of the leadership of PR firms and 24% of the PR workforce at U.S. agencies, according to data compiled from 98 firms for PRWeek’s Agency Business Report.
- Our hiring of BIPOC staff has seen a sustained increase over the last several years as our firm has grown, including 65% of all 2020 staff hires to date and 52% of hires in 2019—the result of multiple changes to our hiring process and a deliberate effort across the firm.
- In 2019 we overhauled our hiring process to make it more inclusive and eliminate implicit bias. We conducted an audit to minimize biased language in our job descriptions, and began using a structured interview process that included anonymized trial projects. Some of our teams set a goal of having at least 50% of candidates at the on-site/final interview stage identifying as BIPOC; we are expanding that goal now to our entire firm.
- While 28% of our Vice Presidents, Senior Vice Presidents, or equivalent roles identify as BIPOC, currently none of our eight Managing Directors or Executive Vice Presidents do.
- We remain committed to pay equity and have done rigorous annual analyses to ensure that we continue to not have disparity of pay between BIPOC and non-BIPOC staff.
Where we’re going
The BerlinRosen Leadership Team (a diverse group of 27 people at the Senior Vice President level and above) has developed a roadmap of specific goals and commitments to drive diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at BR over the next five years. This is a living document that reflects priorities and feedback shared through an inclusive process by staff at every level across the firm.
We are posting these goals in the hope that doing so will help hold us accountable to them, and to encourage our industry to set and meet similarly ambitious goals. These are not goals that we will achieve overnight, but we are committed to achieving them in the timelines outlined and to reporting transparently on our progress.
We are focused on doing the hard work of putting these issues openly on the table, creating space for difficult conversations, engaging in dialogue, expanding our hiring pipelines, constantly reviewing our own processes and moving to a place of concrete and measurable accountability.
These efforts, along with the work we are honored to do for so many organizations at the forefront of the fight for racial justice, are a critical focus of our entire firm’s leadership team.
—Valerie Berlin and Jonathan Rosen, Principals and Co-Founders
Goals and Commitments
In an effort to become a more equitable and inclusive workplace, we have developed the following goals and commitments to drive diversity, equity and inclusion at BerlinRosen. This is a living document created collaboratively that reflects priorities and feedback shared by many of our staff.
We anticipate more changes to be made and details to be added and clarified as we work with the DEI consultant we hire and our new firmwide Equity Team, and as we continue to get feedback from staff across the firm. These are not goals that we’ll achieve overnight and there are many considerations to be made (for instance, we want to ensure that our BIPOC team members are not overburdened during this process), but we are committed to seeing them through together.
We will re-evaluate our timelines and progress towards these goals on a quarterly basis to ensure we are on track and readjusting timelines as circumstances dictate.
Comprehensive DEI program
- Require that at least two representatives of the Leadership Team actively participate in all DEI initiatives.
- Created a firmwide Equity Team—whose composition is at least 50% BIPOC-identifying employees, with Leadership Team participation to help shape diversity, equity and inclusion policy and monitor its progress. We formed our inaugural Equity Team in June 2020.
- In Q3 2020, hire an independent, third-party DEI consultant to assess and further develop DEI at BR, including advising on whether to create a new senior management position dedicated solely to diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Ensure diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are fully funded.
- By the end of 2020, set up protocols for staff-wide DEI feedback (such as listening sessions, updating anonymous forms, etc.).
Representation in leadership
We will improve BIPOC representation at all levels of agency staffing, especially VP+ or equivalent positions, setting the following goals:
- Ensure that an average of 50% or more of all finalist candidates (internal and external) by team and type of position (AC through AS and AD+) identify as BIPOC and an average of at least one finalist candidate for VP+ interviews identifies as Black.
- Attain 25% BIPOC representation at EVP/MD and equivalent C-level positions by 2025, if not sooner, with at least one to two BIPOC hires or internal promotions by summer 2021.
- Some senior-level hiring happens less formally, and potential candidates may become available for non-competitive and un-posted roles. We commit to recruiting and hiring BIPOC senior leaders through these processes as well as diversifying our networking and recruitment sources
Accountability, auditing and reporting
- Track and release an Annual Staff Equity Report, including workforce diversity data and breakdowns by race and gender, teams and titles to create accountability—with the first report out by the end of Q3 2020.
- Develop a plan with the DEI consultant to audit agency policies and culture to ensure the working environment is more equitable to and inclusive of diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
- Document and internally publicize BerlinRosen’s compensation and promotion philosophy, including a plan to ensure that no discrepancies in salaries, bonuses or promotion tracks exist related to race, ethnicity or gender
- Update the roles and responsibilities (job description) document to inform the review process and bonus structures.
- Strengthen and standardize the exit interview process to better inform inclusive team practices and provide feedback.
Hiring and recruiting
- When hiring for full-time, permanent roles, set a goal of a team average of at least 50% of the candidates at the on-site/final interview stage identifying as BIPOC, measured at 1) the AC-AS level and 2) AD+ or equivalent levels in order to ensure that the averages are not met simply through disproportionate BIPOC representation in interviews for AC-AS positions.
- Follow a structured interview process and control for implicit bias, including anonymous trial projects and a goal of at least one person on the practice/division hiring team (when hiring is done by a team) who identifies as BIPOC (structured so as to not to overly burden BIPOC staff).
- Implement a standardized process for firmwide internal notification of new positions posted.Leverage our internship program as a means of increasing BIPOC access to career opportunities in the field of communications with a goal of an average of 50% BIPOC interns in each class across all practice areas and teams.
- Continue partnerships with and outreach to DEI-minded organizations/conferences and schools (affinity groups, HBCUs and more); look for additional opportunities to expand reach.
- By the end of Q3, create written policies in each division intended to increase the use of BIPOC vendors, consultants and freelancers. By the end of Q4, we will work toward a unified firmwide policy.
We commit to conducting or providing access to training for all staff on a variety of topics related to equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and supporting BIPOC staff. With our DEI consultant, we will work toward vetting and selecting trainers and creating a calendar of trainings, with at least one occurring in 2020. We will regularly assess and survey the impact and usefulness of our trainings, adjusting them to ensure maximum value.
Staffing on clients and for business development
- Commit to reviewing client account teams on a quarterly basis across all practice areas, ensuring appropriate distribution of work between BIPOC and non-BIPOC staff.
- Collaborate with the Growth team to find new ways to invite and encourage BIPOC staff across all levels to participate in firmwide business development efforts.
Staff support, development and engagement
Activities and engagement
- Create BerlinRosen employee resource groups (ERGs), such as POC, Black staff, LGBTQ+ employees, etc. with a goal of creating space for connecting informally with co-workers, undertaking professional development and socializing.
- Plan for celebratory/observation months/weeks to ensure there is a committee representative of the community in place to plan activities. Ensure that workloads are adjusted to accommodate planning and there is an adequate budget for activities and programming.
- Develop or maintain division-based peer-to-peer recognition programs, such as quarterly awards, in order to celebrate the accomplishments of individual staff members; foster camaraderie, belonging and support; and provide greater understanding of the work.
New hire orientation
- Develop a more comprehensive and transparent orientation program for new staff across the firm.
- Develop in-house baseline expectations training on project management and staff management for SAEs and above to receive within one month of hire/promotion.
- Create a firmwide peer mentor program for new hires.
- Launch firmwide mentorship program with cross-division or -practice pairings.
Evaluations and feedback
- Standardize end-of-year evaluation process with clear guidance on grading systems, promotion and compensation.
- Expand and implement mid-year evaluations for all staff starting in 2021.
- Expand feedback protocols for managing up, including: at least annual meetings of employees with their supervisor’s supervisor to ensure that feedback is looped up and shared with appropriate senior staff.
- Conduct an annual assessment of the evaluation process to improve consistency.