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Covid-19 vs Black Lives Matter: How the pandemic has further impacted equality in our industry

by Lucy Mart

June 11, 2020

In the past few weeks our industry has been forced to stop and ask itself some important questions about how we are creating equal opportunities for all people.

At PrettyGreen we are using this moment to step back and create a positive plan of action for how we can better drive diversity, as a company and within our industry. This is includes learning from our own employees like Sheeraz Gulsher who recently launched ‘People Like Us’ a networking group for minority ethnic professionals working in media and marketing communications with his brother Darain Faraz.

Over the past month People Like Us has surveyed marcomms professionals to understand the impact Covid-19 is having on the industry with a spotlight on the career prospects of BAME marcomms professionals.

- The new research has revealed that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts BAME marcomms career prospects and threatens to widen pay gap further and are under a greater financial and emotional strain than the rest of the industry

- Since the pandemic, BAME marcomms professionals are, on average, taking a greater pay cut (+18%); over four in 10 (42%) feel their career prospects have suffered and nearly four in 10 (37%) feel that diversity is less of a priority in their workplace

New research released today by networking group People Like Us has revealed that BAME marcomms professionals are under both a greater financial and emotional strain than the rest of the industry. They are having to take deeper pay cuts than average (+18%), which could threaten to widen the pay gap that already stands at 20%* in London where the majority of professionals are based; and are lacking confidence in their employers, the media, and future career prospects.

BAME marcomms professionals did, however, indicate that they feel more supported by each other and better equipped to face the crisis. But more than a third (35%) still feel that they don’t have someone to consult or know how to handle the pandemic and its resulting fallout.

The research also uncovered that BAME marcomms professionals think that diversity and inclusion are now less of a priority due to COVID-19 (37% vs. 26% industry average). Over 4 in 10 (42%) feel that their ethnicity negatively affects how the current crisis impacts their career prospects compared to 20% of professionals from white backgrounds. Notably, a higher percentage of all respondents working in-house think diversity and inclusion are a higher priority for their company since COVID-19 than those working at an agency (23% vs 15%).

Over 2 in 5 (41%) of BAME marcomms professionals feel they do not have a good work-life balance in the current environment, this is compared to less than a third (32%) of white marcomms professionals who said the same. Over 2 in 5 (45%) of in-house marcomms professionals agree that they don’t feel equipped for the pandemic or have someone to consult at this time compared to less than 3 in 10 (29%) agency marcomms professionals.

The inaugural People Like Us event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The upcoming “Virtually ‘People Like Us’” event at 5pm on 25th June will give BAME marcomms professionals a platform to share work they are proud to have contributed to. Professionals at all levels in media and marcomms are encouraged to attend, alongside them will be recruiters from a breadth of organisations.

Sheeraz Gulsher, Co-Founder, People Like Us said: “The current pandemic is affecting everyone and the media industry is no exception - but it’s heart breaking to see that at a time when everyone should be pulling together, people of colour seem to be once again pushed down the priority list. With the rise of the culture-defining Black Live Matter movement, we want to make sure that these important conversations around diversity and inclusion don't just focus on the justice system, but on society as a whole. It is our job as an industry to use this momentum to turn the tide for BMEs, to keep diversity in mind and celebrate the voices we already have in the industry."

Darain Faraz, Co-Founder, People Like Us added: “People Like Us was conjured up with a single aim in mind - and that was to bring together and celebrate the greatness we know exists within our community. Since then the world around has changed somewhat dramatically; none of us knows quite how the dust will settle following these monumental happenings, but what we do know is that there has never been a more important time for our communities’ voices to be heard.”

Broader industry findings

The industry as a whole has suffered widely due to the pandemic; more respondents in-house have been put on furlough than those in an agency (26% vs 18%). Similarly, more respondents in-house have been made redundant than those in an agency (11% vs 8%). However, more respondents in an agency have taken a pay cut than those in-house (34% vs 31%). Over two thirds (68%) of those working in an agency agree that they feel like their employer has been transparent in how the business has been affected in the current climate compared to less than half (48%) of those in-house.

There are marked differences between PR and marketing. 1 in 9 (11%) respondents in PR have been furloughed, compared to over a third (35%) in marketing. Over three times as many respondents in marketing have been made redundant than those in PR (15% vs 4%). However, for respondents in PR, the percentage is much higher than those in marketing for taking a pay cut (35% vs 26%)

Find out more by contacting Sheeraz Gulsher and Darain Faraz at People Like Us. People Like Us will be hosting “Virtually ‘People Like Us’” on Thursday 25th June from 5 - 5:45pm to celebrate black and minority ethnic voices in the industry. RSVP for the free event here:

This research was conducted by Censuswide, polling 219 respondents employed in or who used to work in either PR, marketing, advertising or journalism between 18.05.2020 - 04.06.2020. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

For all media enquiries and to be added to the event mailing list, please email


*ONS Ethnicity pay gaps in Britain available here.

CIPR State of the Profession report available here.


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