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Why Are There so Many Women in PR?

Why Are There so Many Women in PR?

In every PR class I take throughout college, it seems like I’m the only guy.

Although upper-management in public relations is overwhelmingly male, the rest of the field is dominated by women. A whopping 73% of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is female. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, women account for 63% of public relations specialists, while another study by Syracuse University estimates that these numbers reach up to 85%.

Either way, there’s no question that the PR world has a shortage of testosterone.

Men in Management

Although men are scarce in the field, they account for 80% of managerial positions in PR. Even at the same positions, there’s a large discrepancy between salaries of men and women. In another study conducted by the PRSA, male PR practitioners reported average annual salaries of $93,494, while women reported earning an average of $66,467.

Despite this blatant sexist phenomenon, women are going into PR at an astounding rate.

Why?

Is it because PR is a naturally feminine field? Are women less paycheck-oriented? Or are they influenced by the media’s portrayal of PR?

One theory is that lack of better options in the 80s and 90s created a natural path to PR. It just so happened to be the a very fitting and well-paid option.

In recent years, some have converted to the notion that it has something to do with the media’s portrayal of PR. One example comes from the long running TV-turned-movie series “Sex in the City.” I’ve never seen the show myself, but apparently the glamorous lifestyle of one of the show’s main characters, Samantha Jones, has had a profound impact on at least one generation of women. Ann Friedman, author at NY Mag, notes, of all “fictional publicists in pop culture, every notable character since the mid-'80s is a woman.”

Conversely, the media portrays advertising, marketing, and journalism with a masculine edge. It seems that all marketing and advertising positions are played by Don Draper and David Ogilvy types with the impeccable ability to sway public opinion.

Though PR may have a similar purpose, it’s often seen as the soft side of the communications world. Many believe this disproportion comes from women having the better ability to create relationships needed in PR. While men are constantly pushing their product or idea, women can better focus on building a personal bond with the client.

Some women in PR reported that they chose the profession because it was too hard to make it in journalism. PR practitioners now trump journalists 3:1, creating high competition and lower pay for journalism positions. This imbalance is a significant issue in itself.

A recent study found women leaned towards PR because their college major choice was based on interest rather than future monetary possibilities. Men are statistically more likely to be influenced by the paycheck.

Deirdre Latour, who led the global PR and issues management strategy for the 2006 Beijing Olympic Games, stated:

I think it's a reflection of how women in society are educated. The idea that women are better at communicating or listening; I think that's old-fashioned.”

Maybe this is true, but...

what is the impact of this feminized version of PR?

Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America, posted,

The best Australian work exudes a great masculine energy, something we’re sadly missing over here. The American PR industry has become so feminized and so politically correct that I worry about where the edge has gone[/inlinetweet]. It’s not even in Brooklyn or Long Island City anymore. We’ve institutionalized all the hot shops, softened their edges and finishing-schooled the brashness right out of them.”

Many companies thrive off the edge that male communication can offer, and that’s now a tough commodity to come by in the PR agency. For some corporations, the typical PR agency today is “too nice.”

Clearly, there are many different explanations for why so many women enter PR. While they all address the issue of this growing imbalance, maybe the question shouldn’t simply be, “Why is this happening?”

Perhaps we should be asking, “What does this mean for the future of PR?”

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