SIUC Dept. of Communication Studies RSOs
Each year, the Department of Communication Studies at SIUC sends four students, expenses paid, to the Plank Center Summit on Diversity & Inclusion. In November 2019, I had the honor of attending the Plank Summit on Diversity and Inclusion in Chicago, Illinois. At the conference, I heard the newest research on the state of Diversity and Inclusion within the field of communication and heard first-hand accounts from professionals within the field who have experienced being “the first, the only, or the few”. It’s abundantly clear that the field of public relations has a lot of growing to do when it comes to D&I, and this summit offered insight on the ways that we, as the next generation of communication professionals, can change the outdated narrative that is present within the industry.
At this conference, I learned about current trends where companies focus on diversity, but negate their responsibility for inclusion. Meeting company-set hiring quotas is not enough of an effort; and the lack of authenticity when companies do the bare minimum towards inclusion is reflected both internally to employees and externally to clients and customers. It's not enough to have people from different backgrounds present throughout the organization; true equity and empowerment comes from fostering an environment where individuals are comfortable and empowered to speak their mind are heard. When employees feel comfortable speaking up, especially when they are not in the majority, companies will benefit. They will be more creative, they will be more effective in their communication to different types of audiences.
One of the most important lessons I learned at this conference is that it is in everyone’s power to make a difference, no matter what position you hold. If you’re sitting around a table full of people who look and think like you, then bring someone to the table who offers a new perspective. As a white, middle class woman, I especially resonated with Jeff Winston, the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Alkermes, who said those who come from a place of privilege must take it upon themselved to examine our own personal and subconscious biases, and become aware of what’s hindering us from fostering deeper communication and understanding. Only when we’re aware of this can we begin to mend the diversity gap within our field.
Savannah Coady is a senior studying Public Relations at SIU. She is the president of SIU’s PRSSA chapter and the CMO for the Communication Career Council, as well as a member of the National Millennial and Gen Z community. She has a passion for photography and videography, and when she's not working on new social media campaigns for the Department of Communication Studies, you’ll find her on the set of a Movie Camera Movement film.