Women in PR

14 Feb

young-business-women-standing (1)When talking about the PR profession, the subject of gender diversity, and the fact that women dominate the profession, comes up a lot. The gender division is also visible in practice, as for example; our MA in PR class consists of nineteen girls and three boys. This is very normal in PR as, according to Ragan.com, the workforce is made up by 85 per cent women. However, the top jobs seem to be dominated by men. So what makes women so interested in PR, and why do men get the best paid jobs?

There are many factors that play a role of the profession being dominated by women. The perception of PR in popular media may have something to do with it, even though many practitioners disagree that it gives a right portrayal of the occupation. Sex and the City’s Samantha who throws parties with A-listers or Jones or Bridget Jones who ‘fannies around with press releases’ is most certainly not what PR is all about.

The PR profession is so much more than just dealing with parties and celebrities, but the media portrays the profession this way for the purpose of entertainment. I don’t think they would reach that many viewers by portraying the profession as being about writing, planning, law and making strategies.

Rosanna Fiske, CEO of the PRSA stated: “While Samantha Jones is entertaining, she’s in no way our profession’s top role model. But the image persists.. It’s something the global PR industry will need to address in the coming years.. There are still far too few women in senior leadership positions. Equally troubling is the gender-based salary gap.”

That brings me to the next important point; why is men getting a bigger salary then women and reaching better jobs than women in PR?

Many practitioners argue that there is a ‘glass ceiling’ that is hindering women from reaching the top-level CEO positions in PR. A study from the Journal of Public Relations (vol. 14) argues that this glass ceiling is there because of the fact that women are natural communicators and acquires the positions of being the companion of male professionals, and deal with the ‘small talk’. There is also a discussion that the glass ceiling exist because women takes maternity leaves and have a bigger chance of staying at home with the kids for longer periods.

So what are the professional bodies doing to help tackle the diversity issues? The CIPR have a diversity strategy that consist of:

1. Improving the understanding of PR in communities which is not a visible career option

2. Having a best practice approach to internships

3. Having a competence-based approach to recruitment

4. Having a best practice approach to re-employment and return to work

Do you think these steps will help the gender differences in PR?



Lecture notes, Michaela O’Brien, University of Westminster 2012

Images in courtesy of: House of PR, PRiscope, 3BP


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