Women of Color in PR Meeting Recap
By Sara Lawrence
This week PRSSA hosted a DEI panel featuring DeShele Taylor, Dr. Solyee Kim, Dr. Juan Meng and Q. McElroy. Our speakers discussed their experiences in the workplace as women of color. Meet our speakers:
- Dr. Solyee Kim
- Visiting Lecturer at the UGA
- Q. McElroy
- Digital Media Consultant, QSM
- M.A. Student, Communication & Media Studies
- Dr. Juan Meng
- AdPR Department Head and Associate Professor at UGA
- DeShele Taylor
- Director of AdPR Academy
A little bit about their career paths:
- Dr. Kim studied German and political science as an undergraduate student in Seoul, South Korea. She wanted to travel so she participated in an exchange program in Germany for two years, which led to her being interested in how cultural backgrounds shape experiences. She came to UGA for her masters program and took a job at a boutique agency in Atlanta, but soon came back to UGA for her Phd program. Dr. Kim wrote a 200 page dissertation on DEI in the communications field.
- McElroy studied journalism at UGA and entered the newsroom through copyediting at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. After transitioning to digital media, she had now decided to attend grad school.
- Dr. Meng grew up in Shanghai, China and started her career as a financial news reporter. When she transitioned to media relations, she came to the U.S. for grad school at the University of Alabama. She ended up pursuing her doctorate and went into academic research and teaching. Her DEI and leadership-focused research led her to take a leadership position at UGA.
- Taylor pursued accounting as an undergraduate student at Emory and went to graduated school in New York City, where she was introduced to the world of corporate social responsibility through a private philanthropy perspective. She ended up in the consulting industry for philanthropic organizations.
Hear about their experiences as POC:
- Dr. Kim quit her job at an agency because of its lack of DEI. She said that it is important to recognize when something is not for you. She was also told to avoid writing qualitative research, because of the stereotype of Asians being good at numbers and quantitative studies, but she pursued qualitative work and is really good at it.
- McElory said that at the AJC, she felt nurtured and supported in the newsroom, but felt that she was judged because she was young. She acknowledged that she can be the only Black person in the room and advised students to walk in the room anyway even if they aren’t invited.
- Dr. Meng reflected on how she used to feel insecure when she was the only one that looked different at a big event, but now she is confident that her diversity is her strength. She still experiences frequent microaggressions and believes that many Asians are cornered to do quantitative research, similar to Dr. Kim’s experience. She advised that students speak up for themselves and take chances even if they fail.
- Taylor started consulting in the early 2000s and felt intimidated by the male-dominated field when she had to tell prominent male business owners how to do their jobs better as a female. She said that students need to walk with their own empowerment and show the person across the table the skills that you bring to the table. She also emphasized the importance of making sure you are respected in the workplace and called upon men in the field to advocate for women.
How early professionals can champion diversity in the industry:
- Dr. Kim encouraged students to recognize and respect cultural differences.
- McElroy counseled young professionals to think about the work they do; think about the experts they call, people they feature in their copy writing and advertisements and people they interview to make sure they are creating a space that represents all people, not just themselves.
- Dr. Meng talked about how leadership is not about the title; all professionals at all levels need to take leadership and recognize both visible and invisible diversity to be intentional about integrity and inclusion. This includes recruiting diverse staff, making them comfortable and being open to bringing in different perspectives.
- Taylor noted that we all have to own where we come from and recognize our biases. She pushed students to put themselves out there and become a world citizen, in addition to asking People of Color genuine questions to see from their eyes.
How interviewees should ask about DEI efforts in a company:
- Dr. Kim talked about stalking companies’ social media to find out how they portray themselves, which will give insight into the reality of their DEI efforts. She said that she doesn’t believe what they tell her in an interview about DEI.
- McElroy recommended that interviewees use their network to find people that work there and get the inside scoop about the company.
- Dr. Meng recommended talking to new hires in specific.
- Taylor said that your instincts will guide you to know if a company is the right fit with your values, and she also advised that interviewees should ask how they can contribute to the DEI efforts as a young professional if they end up working at the company.
Recommended media for additional learning:
- NPR Code Switch talks about DEI
- Podcast: Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Intersectionality Matters”
- Book: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
- Book: Diversity & Inclusion: Five Essential Leadership Competencies of an Effective D&I Practitioner
- Refinery 29 Newsletters talking about culture