PR and the age old gender debate

Social media author and Ketchum's latest hire Stephen Waddington recently blogged about the significant gender imbalance in PR. Eight years ago as part of my MA in Marketing at Northumbria University's Newcastle Business School I did a study of PR practitioners in the North East to ascertain whether gender discrimination was still an issue.

The study was a replica of one by Dozier & Broom in 1995 in which they looked at the evolution of the manager role in PR practice. The two posited that PR professionals carry out one of two roles, that of either manager (read director level or above / strategist) or technician (the implementer or ‘doer’) and hypothesized that practitioners can only participate in organisational decision making where manager status is achieved. I think generally it’s fair to say the latter is true.

At the time, the results of my study echoed many findings to date, ie that women are for many reasons, including a variety of factors outside their control, most often found (and regularly trapped) in the technician role, therefore arguably limiting their influence at the boardroom table.

My instinct tells me that the situation remains the same today and the latest salary scales are a reminder that there are big discrepancies in terms of pay if not opp’s. I’d love to replicate the study to discover today's reality and maybe that’s what I should do as part of my chartered practitioner submission (my next goal).

In terms of opp’s, if what Wadds says in his opening paragraph is true and women are better at negotiating relationships, social offers our biggest chance to break through yet but it’s whether or not we grasp the nettle with both hands… I can’t see it happening to be honest.

What I would say is that I set up a business three and a half years ago and have also had two children in that time. I have had to work very hard to stay at the forefront of the industry so understand the challenges that face women very well. PR is not the type of industry you can dip in and out of and unlike what people say (including those commenting on Wadd's blog), I personally don’t find it that family-friendly. That’s a big myth and one I’d personally like to dispel.