Last night’s annual Big Apple Awards, hosted by the New York chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, took aim at fostering diversity in the PR workplace.

The inaugural President’s Diversity Data Honor Roll Award was created to recognize PR agencies that have had the courage and foresight to step up and submit their diversity data, explained PRSA-NY chapter president Sharon Fenster. 

Finn Partners, Hunter Public Relations and The Zeno Group are the first recipients

“Publicly sharing diversity statistics has proven to be one of the most important steps to greater workplace diversity,” Fenster said to the over 400 gathered at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s 36th-floor ballroom overlooking NYC’s Central Park.

“We need to know where we stand to determine where we want to go as an industry,” Fenster stressed.

Shelley Spector accepting the Philip Dorf Award
Shelley Spector accepting the Philip Dorf Award.

Fenster pointed out that diversity in senior ranks is essential because that’s where decisions are made.  “Leaders can truly leave a stamp on the organization, ensuring that its values are aligned with its culture,” Fenster said.

A recent McKinsey study shows that companies which reflect the demographic statistics of the communities they serve and in which they operate, earn a full 30 percent more than their competitors, Fenster explained. 

“That’s right, you heard me, 30 percent more,” Fenster stressed.

Fenster acknowledged that while progress is being made, there’s a lot more to do.  “Companies must step up to the plate. They must put all their diversity data into the world and face the scrutiny we all need to face.”

Tom Suiter, HP corporate affairs, explained that his company, which sponsored the diversity honor roll, is signaling to their agencies that diversity is an absolute business imperative and will be for the foreseeable future.

“Diversity is a marathon; it takes time.  You can’t get there overnight because you have to recruit, you have to retain the pipeline, you have to work at it,” Suiter said.

Inclusion, however, is a sprint, Suiter noted. “You can start today, right now.”

HP strives to be a destination of choice for women and unrepresented groups seeking careers in technology, Suiter explained.

Spector honored

Shelley Spector, president, Spector & Associates and founder of The Museum of Public Relations was presented with the Philip Dorf Award, honoring those who foster the careers of PR pros.

Roger Bolton
Roger Bolton was the John W. Hill Award winner.

Spector explained that when she started out, women leaders were few and far between in PR.  She was heavily influenced by AT&T’s Marilyn Laurie, who she met early on her career.  Laurie was the highest-ranking PR woman in corporate America at the time.

Laurie never veered far from her humble New York beginnings, Spector explained.  “She sounded just like my Aunt Harriet, who herself was raised in the same Bronx neighborhood as Marilyn.”

“Fortunately for young people today, there are more role models of every gender background or color that at any time in PR history.  And there are more opportunities to connect with them than ever before,” Spector said.

Roger Bolton, president of The Arthur W. Page Society, took home the night’s top honor as the John W. Hill Award winner, which recognizes career achievement in the practice of PR.

Johm O'Dwyer & Doug Simon
John O'Dwyer (L) & emcee Doug Simon

“Our job is to help our clients to be deserving of trust by doing the right thing in the right way,” Bolton said.  “Let’s make it our mission to advocate for diversity, for inclusion, for reconciliation and for positive change that improves lives.”

O’Dwyer’s recognized

O’Dwyer’s picked up its first Big Apple for Best Coverage of the New York PR Community by a Trade.  

The award was presented to publisher John O’Dwyer by Doug Simon, president-elect of PRSA-NY and president & CEO of D S Simon Media.

“For the first time, finally, when people are talking about fake news, they aren’t talking about us,” Doug Simon joked when he kicked off the evening.