Andrea Gils, marketing and communications manager at the University of Kentucky’s International Center, has been recently appointed as the 2020 National Co-Chair for the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Diversity & Inclusion National Committee.
In this role, Gils, along her co-chair Felicia Blow, APR, associate vice president for Development at Hampton University, lead the PRSA Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) National Committee, devoted to building consciousness and advocacy by establishing D&I standards for the industry and increasing visibility of such an essential part of businesses and organizations.
In 2019, Gils and Blow worked with PRSA leaders and the PRSA strategic planning committee to develop PRSA’s first-ever diversity and inclusion strategic plan. The three-year plan’s overarching goal is to position PRSA as a model for the communications profession, reflecting exemplary leadership in diversity, inclusion, equity and equality. In December 2019, the plan was presented to PRSA’s Board of Directors and its adoption was announced to PRSA membership this week.
“With PRSA being the world’s largest association for communication professionals, it is our responsibility to lead our society – to not only serve as resource to our members but lead by example in our practices and in the industry,” Gils said. “It’s a different world now – you have to be completely in tune with your surroundings –the people, the places and the cultures around you.”
We have learned now more than ever that we are all interconnected, Gils added. “Being able to understand our experiences and having courageous conversations is essential to our progress and success, not just as the communications industry, but as humankind.”
Diversity and inclusion have been reoccurring topics for many organizations across the nation. In the public relations and communications world, leaders in professional organizations, such as Gils, work together to foster an environment within the profession that promotes equal access to opportunities and resources regardless of an individual’s origin, racial and ethnic background, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, skill set, socio-economic status, mindset or culture.
“Diversity unlocks innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard and sought after,” Gils said. “The dimensions of diversity are endless and will keep evolving with time so it’s important to not get stuck in the labels. Instead, we need to focus on feeling comfortable about addressing topics that we are afraid to talk about, having difficult conversations in a respectful and constructive way that allows us to above all, just listen and learn from each other.”
In addition to her diversity and inclusion national leadership role, Gils also serves on the executive committee for PRSA’s Counselors to Higher Education section, the leading professional organization for senior-level communications leaders in higher education institutions. This position allows her to bring an international perspective to leadership while continue being an advocate for diversity and inclusion.
“D&I is dear to my heart and being able to impact and move the profession forward at this scale is a dream come true. It is really, one of the greatest highlights of my professional and service career,” Gils said.