Our DEI Commitments: A Year In Review  

Two years ago, Padilla outlined our commitments to do our part to help break the cycle of discrimination, racial injustice, and inequity in our society – more specifically in the communications industry. This includes sharing our progress with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) annually, which includes reporting our employee demographics publicly.

When we first reported our employee demographics in 2020, our total Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) employee based was just shy of 10 percent. As of November 2022, our total BIPOC employees make up 16 percent of our staff and 11 percent of leadership (vice president or above). Women now constitute almost 80 percent of our workforce, with 65 percent at the senior level (vice president and above). Women have made up more than 70 percent of our workforce for a long time.

While we have made progress, we still have work to do. To help move the needle with DEI, our initiatives for the past several years have focused on several key areas:

  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Agency Training and Content
  • Client Work
  • Community Engagement

Specifically related to recruitment and retention, we:

  • Established or strengthened relationships with diverse professional organizations for recruiting purposes
  • Reinforced our commitment to diversity with hiring managers when recruiting and hiring at all levels of the organization
  • Donated to scholarships for BIPOC college students
  • Participated in industry efforts by the PR Council and the Diversity Action Alliance to benchmark diversity within our industry – including releasing our staffing demographic information annually, because what gets measured gets improved

We also continued our commitment to the Twin Cities PR BIPOC Career Explorer program. In 2021, Padilla joined with five other Twin Cities agencies to discuss what additional actions could be taken to address the racial inequities in our industry. The result is an externship program designed for BIPOC college students interested in public relations and communications. The first cohort – which ran from September 2021 to April 2022 – had 32 students from nine colleges and universities, expanding well beyond the Twin Cities. The second cohort, which began this September, has 16 students from 12 colleges and universities, also beyond the Twin Cities.

Each year, during this seven-month program, students:

  • Get a real-world look at the communications and PR agency profession through a direct-access learning program
  • Gain access to a network of professionals and mentors who help connect with future internship opportunities and mentors
  • Receive a stipend for participation

Some other key DEI highlights from 2022 include the following:

  • Training – We continued diversity training through our external partner The BrandLab, which covered such topics as unconscious bias, impact vs. intent, understanding and uncovering privilege, and allyship. We also brought in seven outside experts as part of our ongoing Bubble Break speakers’ series to help commemorate such observances as Black History Month, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month. Other topics included an examination of the unrest in the Ukraine and advocacy for people with disabilities. We also participated in “Inspiring Conversations” on mental health and stigmatizing language as well as civility in the workplace through our parent company, AVENIR GLOBAL.
  • Community Engagement – Along with pro bono work with community organizations, our Diversity + Inclusion Day of Service (DIDS) continues to flourish. DIDS offers employees one day off annually to perform community service related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. How or when to volunteer is up to each employee. In 2022, employees volunteered with a variety of nonprofits, such as the East Oakland Collective, Second Harvest Heartland and American Red Cross, as well as provided public relations counsel to diverse- and women-owned businesses and participated in or organized “get-out-the-vote” campaigns.
  • Supplier Diversity – While not a part of our original DEI initiatives, two years ago, we established a Diversity Supplier Program, as we work to build a more diverse network of vendors for the agency. The goal is to both expand our network and increase our level of spending with these vendors. Since beginning our program, we’ve averaged more than 30 percent of our spending with diverse vendors, based on widely recognized criteria that cover race and ethnicity, women-owned businesses, LGBTQ+ businesses, veteran-owned businesses, business owned by individuals with disabilities, and small businesses.
  • Client Work – We continue to expand our Social Impact Consulting, which provides strategic counsel in four key areas:
    • Corporate Responsibility – the commitment an organization makes to positively impact a pressing social issue
    • Community Engagement – how an organization invests its time (volunteerism), treasure (philanthropic giving), and talent (board service) to make the communities where it does business better places to live and work
    • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – an internal and external commitment to fairness, making all people feel welcomed and valued
    • Environmental Sustainability – acting in a way that ensures future generations have the natural resources available to live an equal, if not better, way of life as current generations 

We also expanded work with our DEI Collective, a select group of external advisors who provide insight and guidance to the agency and help ensure our work for Padilla and our clients is inclusive and culturally appropriate. This group augments our internal resources and expertise. We have 11 DEI members and featured several of them on our corporate blog – Poh Lin Khoo, Joan Erakit, Sherene Chou, and Chad Poitra.

One of the largest company-wide DEI initiatives we undertook in 2022 related to Pride Month in June. Along with agency-wide programing for Pride, each of our seven offices developed Pride programming at the local level, which included “lunch and learn sessions” and facilitated conversations. Offices also supported local LGBTQ+ businesses and/or made donations to LGBTQ+ nonprofits, such as SF LGBT Center and SMYAL. Agency-wide programming included a Bubble Break conversation with Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer and Executive Producer of the GLAAD Media Awards. As part of our commitment to agency contact, we posted Pride at Padilla – a Q&A with some of our LGBTQ+ employees and allies – to our corporate blog.

Making progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion is a marathon and not a sprint, and our commitment to DEI will continue. Thank you for your contributions as we continue our journey.