PRCA study into LGBTQ+ workplace inclusivity reveals more work to do

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has recently released results of a survey on LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the PR and Communications industry. The purpose of the survey was to help shape the agenda of the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group in 2021, by revealing where the PRCA should focus to best use its platform for positive change.

A Summer 2020 survey commissioned by the PRCA, with fieldwork run by their partner in LGBTQ+ advocacy, YouGov, investigated LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace. The majority of respondents are PR and communications professionals, 40% of whom are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Overall, the results indicate acceptance and equality. On closer analysis of the data, however, the picture is more complicated.

Definitive questions, such as whether respondents support same sex marriage, received overwhelming support (97%+ in support). The survey asked respondents to determine how comfortable they would feel discussing issues such as sex, marriage, dating and gender identity with both their cisgender/heterosexual and LGBTQ+ colleagues. Among cishet respondents, there were few differences in comfort, suggesting a confidence to speak openly regardless of the sexual/gender identity of their colleagues. Comparatively, LGBTQ+ respondents were, in some cases significantly, more comfortable across the board discussing these topics with other LGBTQ+.

Other results clearly conflict with the assumption of general equality based on sexual and gender identity. For example, 24% of respondents noted that they assume a colleague is cisgender and heterosexual unless informed otherwise, while only 84% of respondents believe that LGBT+ colleagues receive opportunities equal to those of their cisgender, heterosexual colleagues. Moreover, 29% of respondents are not aware of any LGBTQ+ colleagues holding senior leadership positions.

The overall picture is one of positive progress, but this headway needs to continue to grow if we want true equality and acceptance to prevail. Of greatest concern was that a fifth of LGBTQ+ respondents have been discriminated against at work because of their sexual or gender identity. Anonymous comments left by respondents raised concerns around ongoing issues of stigma, disrespect, fear, needing to avoid mentioning being LGBTQ+ in front of clients, bullying and assumptions or stereotyping:

I think there is a lot of prejudice in the workplace when it comes to sexuality / gender identity – some of which is unconscious, some of which isn’t. I think it can be challenging for LGBTQ+ workers to feel totally comfortable in talking about this when they don’t quite know what people think and don’t want to face judgement that might affect how they are perceived in their role.

With a gender-balanced 374 respondents, the results may not represent the industry as a whole, but they are a good indication of opinions and trends. This study was conducted on an ‘opt-in’ basis via an email and social media link to an online survey shared with PRCA members. Potential respondents were made aware of the content and subject of the survey prior to taking part, which may go some way in explaining the higher uptake amongst LGBTQ+ individuals. 59% of respondents self-identified as cisgender and heterosexual, 40% as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Population studies suggest that closer to 90% of the working population identify as cisgender and heterosexual. Outreach for this survey did not target one group over another.

Katie Traxton, PRCA LGBTQ+ Chair:

Discrimination in any form, no matter how small or harmless it may appear, should never be tolerated. But it’s clear from these results many LGBTQ+ people in our industry are experiencing it – and that can’t be overlooked.

“This issue should not be one that falls on the hands of the LGBTQ+ community to change. As allies and leaders, we should all be holding ourselves accountable for driving representation and inclusivity within our own organisations, and we need clear objectives, actions and KPIs to do that.

“The PRCA encourages everyone to call out discriminative remarks and microaggressions whenever you hear them. The only way we’ll change these statistics, is if we all act.

The PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group aims to inspire conscious action among the PR and communications industry to include, champion and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in both work and workplaces by shining a spotlight on latent inequality. Subscribing to Stonewall UK’s guiding statement on inclusive workplaces, which promotes “the power of a workplace that is truly inclusive. Workplaces where all LGBT employees are accepted without exception,” means it is the duty of the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group to campaign for zero tolerance for discrimination, be it overt or in the form of microaggression.

A series of events planned for 2021, starting with a free webinar at 17.00 on January 27th, will welcome expert panellists to explore how together we can make a positive impact in improving equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace in light of key findings from the survey.  The PRCA encourages all colleagues to attend and actively participate in these events.

If you would like to offer a perspective or get involved with the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group, please contact us at:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 374 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24 June-21 September 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been not been weighted.

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