A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about steps I believe companies across the country (and world) should be taking to put an end to systemic racism in our culture–and our industry. I felt weird writing it because, after all, people in my age group and race (middle to older white men) are a big part of the problem. But, then again, that was exactly why I was writing it. More of us need to speak up.
However, we also need to amplify and bring more people of color to the table and give them a platform to share their experiences, their perspectives and their feelings.
So, today I’m starting to do just that. I recently connected with Gabriela Lozada, Public Relations Manager for the Minnesota United FC, to ask her a few questions about how she’s been feeling the last few weeks, what steps brands can take to address this issue, and how the PR industry can become more diverse in the years ahead.
First, I want to start with a simple question: How have you been feeling these last few weeks as a person of color here in Minneapolis?
Helpless, a little guilty and overwhelmed. So I’ve spent a lot of time looking at myself and the unconscious bias I have and how that relates to other communities and my own. As a person of color, I’m not absolved from bias and even within my own community, we struggle with classism and racism but we also face some of the same roadblocks from systemic racism as the African-American, Asian-American and indigenous communities.
What is your background, and how has that impacted how you’ve felt?
I was born in Venezuela and my family immigrated to the United States when I was six years old. While I’m proud of the work my family has done and the sacrifices my parents have made for us to be successful in this country as immigrants, I know that our journey is not one every immigrant shares and Hispanics work and fight for success just like every other community of color but the system is not set up for everyone to succeed. It’s almost like it’s set up for one community to succeed (beyond the white community) and one cause for people to support. Sometimes it feels like each community blames each other for not being able to rise above in this country. Minorities fight each other to succeed and fight each other for attention instead of working together for all to succeed. It’s unfair and enraging.
What action steps would you like to see brands and civic agencies take to start to put an end to systemic racism here in Minneapolis/St. Paul?
Finding leaders within minority communities and including them in the conversation of how our cities and state can be better, can create more opportunities for people of color, how to better our education system and improve the achievement gap. It starts there, with our youth.
Where do we start in making real progress in the PR industry? Because, as you well know, we don’t have the most diversity in our profession.
We can’t have leaders in this industry that are representative of minority communities if we don’t have people of color who work in this industry. Organizations like The BrandLab have the right idea, reaching students of color at younger ages, in high school and college and presenting marketing PR as a viable career option. In my family and culture, most people are doctors, engineers, educators and I never thought a career in communications was even an option. I do believe it’s about educating and recruiting students of color to help fill our industry with more representation. I’ve always enjoyed getting to know college students who are interested in making connections with professionals in this industry and even more so Hispanic students and finding ways to help guide them through their time in school and first couple years after graduation.
Any specific stories or examples come to mind of what this could look like?
A couple years ago I met a Venezuelan PR student from the University of Minnesota. She reached out to me to connect and I saw myself in her and she was only a few years younger than me. I never had that while I was in school, someone who looked like me trying to succeed in this industry. We can’t hire people who don’t apply or don’t have the qualifications. Our industry can’t grow if we don’t reach our youth.