When it comes to the PR profession and equal pay, we are in a state

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.28.06 The CIPR’s latest State of the Profession benchmarking survey makes for uncomfortable reading. Well, at least for those of us concerned with equality.

Again there is disparity chasm in pay between male and female PR practitioners. What are we – it’s a collective issue – going to do about it?

In the last fortnight the Office for National Statistics reported that the gender pay gap nationally has widened for the first time in five years. Unacceptable as it is, for those in industries dominated by men such as science and technology, this may not come as much of a surprise.

The numbers don’t add up

But for those dominated by women, like the PR profession, the report should make us hang our head in shame. Here’s just one statistic from the CIPR’s survey: of those PR practitioners who earn £150,000 or greater, two-thirds are men. So why is it taking so long to do anything about this? If we all agree that PR campaigns are more effective when practised by socially diverse teams, what is stopping us from putting them in place?

I had to start my own business to personally address the gender pay gap. It shouldn’t be that way.

Academic studies tell us that there are traditionally two key roles in PR – that of the manager (strategist) and that of the technician (implementer or ‘doer’).

However women have in significant numbers moved out of the driver’s seat and onto the passenger side before reaching destination manager. Whether by choice or by default the majority have become stuck in the position of technician, which by its very nature receives a smaller salary. Even when the practitioner involved inhabits both roles, as is often the case.

Work life imbalance and other myths

There’s a pervasive myth that does the rounds that PR is a highly flexible career choice suited to women with families or family plans. As an owner-manager with two children under four and someone who has employed numerous working mums, I dispute this.

PR is stressful, requires long hours at work, often outside of nine to five and this trend is on the increase with the rise of social media requiring out-of-office hours management.

Part-time employment is not easy to manage but is perhaps the lesser of two evils when facing the return to work.  Higher numbers of part-time workers would certainly explain some of the discrepancy in pay but it is still not enough to make it acceptable.

A 20-year old solution

The Dozier and Broom study on the gender pay gap was published almost 20 years ago. This is depressing.

There are many complex factors that come into play and I certainly have no easy answers to the problem. But what is evident is that there needs to be much greater transparency in terms of what organisations pay their staff.

And there is no shortage of solutions.

The Equality Act 2010 gives women (and men) a right to equal pay for equal work. It’s there in black and white but individuals need help to secure what they are due. If you’re an employer, ACAS has produced guidance to help you achieve gender equality within the workplace and that’s one good place to start.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a five-step equal pay audit model that you can also follow.

Those concerned with whether they are being discriminated against need to stand up and be counted by asking to see how their salary fares against those of their counterparts and by being a positive conduit for change.

Are we complicit?

The salary pay gap is the elephant in the room when careers in PR are discussed. The issue has not and is not going away. The CIPR has a duty of care to its membership. We know what the issue is; the solution has been set out by academics and legislation.

As a Board member, I shall be asking how the Institute can take a stronger leadership role going forward. I’d like you all to do the same for the status quo has to change.

Doing nothing makes us complicit.