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Women in PR: Research and opinions about the status, challenges and future of women working in PR/Communications

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FREE DOWNLOAD: https://www.quadriga-university.com/en/research/profession-research/communication/women-pr No matter where in the world (if there is research to track it), women make up most of the workforce in PR/Comms. In Finland for instance, 89% of the workforce in PR/Comms is made of women (Melgin, 2014), while in the UK it is a little more than 60%. While there is reason to celebrate the rise in popularity and demand for communication specialists — and with this access to PR education — the feminization of any workforce brings with it a variety of counter effects which, in today’s day and age, require serious reflection and committed action. These include gendered perceptions about the profession and perpetuating bias which lead in turn to pay differences, discriminatory practices, career progression hurdles and a potential reduction of talent pool. dwindled (Fazackerley, 2020) and many practitioners' levels of pressure and stress increased due to a higher demand for communication services coinciding with the reduced access to support services including childcare, this reader aims to reflect on the progress made so far and contribute to keeping the discussion going. Additionally, at a time of such confinement, this reader celebrates the diversity (of origin, practice, language, thinking) through the diversity of our contributors and the unity that technology provides. 16 chapters, 4 continents, more than 10 countries. Moreover, the research presented here is as important as the personal experiences of our contributors, many of whom, you will find, having both studied and worked in the field.
Page 4
No matter where in the world (if there is research to track it), women make
up most of the workforce in PR/Comms. In Finland for instance, 89% of the
workforce in PR/Comms is made of women (Melgin, 2014), while in the UK
it is a little more than 60%.
While there is reason to celebrate the rise in popularity and demand for
communication specialists — and with this access to PR education — the
feminization of any workforce brings with it a variety of counter effects which,
in today’s day and age, require serious reection and committed action.
These include gendered perceptions about the profession and perpetuating
bias which lead in turn to pay differences, discriminatory practices, career
progression hurdles and a potential reduction of talent pool.
Too often, communications has been considered a woman’s job because
“women are good at communicating” yet, even now, when the workforce is
made up by mostly women, leadership, top management and board positions
are occupied by men (Melgin, 2014; Risi, 2016). What’s more, research looking
into the feminization of workforces (PR is there with nursing, education
just to name a few) tends to ponder more on the precariousness of the
male status and its relationship and denition to womanhood (see Jennifer
Bosson’s conversation with Shankar Vidantem on Hidden Brain) or consider
softening feminist demands of equality and equity.
Too often as well, especially in pop culture and mass-media, PR women have
been described as using their sex appeal to win clients and get promotions
(Saltzmar, 2012) – Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, does that ring any
bells? – and equally too often the PR history books told the glorious stories
of self-branded PR fathers like Ivy Lee and Eddy Bernays either forgetting
women all in all or, when they included them, then referred to them either
as villains (Bessie Tyler and her work for the KKK, troublemakers – the
suffragettes) and activists or as objects and audiences of campaigns. Such
exposure has long-term and devastating effects. For once, this perpetuates
the image of PR women as being supercial, cute and intellectually inferior,
and sustain the perpetuation of female professionals’ depictions in terms of
PR girls or PR bunnies (in German PR Mäuse, mice). Moreover, when serious
allegations of sexual harassment emerge from the industry, such as Kristin
Demetrious notes in her chapter Surface effects: Public relations and the
politics of gender (2013), it is the female practitioners that are blamed and
shamed publicly. Now Demetrious’ two Australian cases might have happened
before the #metoo movement, but this is still indicative of the existence of
sexual hierarchies (see also Butler, 2010 cited in Demetrious, 2013, p. 20).
Foreword by Ana Adi
and Edna Ayme-Yahil
Beyond Feminization: Women in
PR Can Be the Key to a More diverse,
Ethical and Inclusive PR
Page 5
So how do we move on from here?
Considerable progress has been made in recent years, both in academia
and in professional circles, with research about and for women increasing,
and with professional bodies and associations paying more attention and
seeking solutions to the discrepancies that gendered views of the profession
and feminization produce. There’s Larissa’s Grunig work on the inuence of
gender on the public relations practice (together with Hon and Toth, 2013),
there’s Heather Yaxley’s incursion into the history of public relations and
the career experiences of women during the 1970s and 1980s (2013) and
more recently Liz Yeomans’ exploration of emotional labor in the context PR
agencies (2019). The Chartered Institute of Public Relations in partnership with
Women in PR (similar name, no relationship here) reviewed the gender pay
gap in the UK (2017) while the Public Relations Society of America has been
calling for more women in power since 2016 (Allen, 2016). More recently, IABC
EMENA hosted at the beginning of the year (2020) an event aimed “creating
a space to discuss how to build a meaningful career in communications”. And
yet, although progress has been made, both professionals and academics
agree that there is so much more to be done: to bring insight into how the
workforce is organized and how diversity and gender inuence practice
around the world, to identify strategies to avoid perpetuating bias, to nd
solutions to career progressions that are inclusive, to facilitate collaboration
and support development.
At the time of the COVID-19 pandemic when women’s research outputs
dwindled (Fazackerley, 2020) and many practitioners' levels of pressure
and stress increased due to a higher demand for communication services
coinciding with the reduced access to support services including childcare,
this reader aims to reect on the progress made so far and contribute to
keeping the discussion going.
Additionally, at a time of such connement, this reader celebrates the
diversity (of origin, practice, language, thinking) through the diversity of our
contributors and the unity that technology provides. 16 chapters, 4continents,
more than 10 countries.
Moreover, the research presented here is as important as the personal
experiences of our contributors, many of whom, you will nd, having both
studied and worked in the eld.
Melike Aktas’ chapter will provide you with a brief overview of PR research
on women and about women. Jenifer Boughey’s review of her master's
thesis highlights the personal journeys and stories of female practitioners in
or out of PR leadership, showing among others how important it is to give
women a voice and give them a platform to be heard. Amelia Reigstad’s
article reects on the ndings of her doctoral work revealing that gender,
stereotypes and ageism within public relations are signicant factors within
workplace communication. Liz Yeomans’ article discusses feminism and its
understanding and applications for PR by focusing on how senior PR women
working in PR agencies in the UK discuss their career experiences and
professional relationships, construct identities in relation to feminism and
gender equality. Talia Beckett Davis discusses the different career paths
Beyond Feminization:
Women in PR Can Be the
Key to a More diverse,
Ethical and Inclusive PR
Page 6
that women and men have in public relations, reecting on the inuence
on pay and condence that career breaks taken to focus on caring for
others family members have on women. The pay gap and glass ceiling
are also discussed by Carolina Carbone and Luz Canella Tsuji using data
from a preliminary study they carried out in Argentina. Begüm Ekmekçigil
Türkmen’s article provides an insight into her doctoral research exploring
career experiences of female PR practitioners in Turkey. The importance of
understanding context, culture and legislation are highlighted in Ramona
Slusarczyk and Amal Dib analysis and reection of PR practice in the Middle
East with questions about the challenges these pose in particular to female
practitioners being raised. Amanda Holdworth’s contribution discusses burnout
amongst female PR practitioners while Sia Papageorgiou provides a reection
on diversity both from her own experience as well as observations and
analysis of how diversity and inclusion are addressed in Australia. Articial
intelligence is also discussed here: rst Zora Artis looks at gender bias and
how it can be defeated (providing in a sense a response if not a solution
to the questions asked in previous articles) then by Kerry Sheehan and her
passionate call for PR practitioners to actively engage in discussions about
articial intelligence and their application and impact. Sian Rees argues that
“emotionally intelligent will help organizations to understand and challenge
their role in society and offer ways for a variety of brand stakeholders to
engage directly with an organization, and its employees, to challenge brand
inauthenticity and direct brands towards actions which support the public
good” (p. 114). In doing so, she provides a series of guiding principles for
social oriented PR practice. Amanda Coleman provides some useful advice
too on how empathy and humanity can be embedded in the communication
practice and improve communication in crisis situations. Speaking of crises,
Mike Klein reects on how COVID-19 might change gender dynamics at
work. Finally, Raffaela Gmeiner and Olga Kolokytha take a deeper incursion
into the world of music PR where women are scarce and provide solutions
to make them seen.
This reader also provides a series of solutions and guidelines to the problems
communicators face: revisiting how and what we teach about PR, considering
how we recruit and how we envisage career journeys and progression, bring
ethics, diversity to the center of the conversation by challenging the status
quo if it needs be.
Finally, this reader is your written companion and extension to the Women
in PR podcast (https://soundcloud.com/user-654979149) launched in 2019
(and planning a second series for the end of 2020) and featuring interviews
with practitioners and academics on topics ranging from missing voices in
PR history to wellbeing of PR professionals and access to the C-suite. And
very much like the podcast, this reader uses gender and feminization as a
pretext to revisit our assumptions about the profession and its professionals,
consider its past and present and imagine its future. In this sense, discussing
about women in PR is an attempt to think of a profession puts ethics and
diversity at the center.
Beyond Feminization:
Women in PR Can Be the
Key to a More diverse,
Ethical and Inclusive PR
Page 7
Prof Dr Adi writes, teachesand researches topics relatedto storytelling, protest
publicrelations and corporateactivism. Prior to joining QuadrigaUniversity
of AppliedSciences and running theirexecutive MBA Communication&
Leadership program, Dr Adi has worked,lived and studied in the USA(with
a Fulbright scholarship),Belgium, Bahrain, Thailandand the UK (and travelled
farbeyond).
She has edited ProtestPublic Relations:
CommunicatingDissent and
Activism(2018, Routledge) and is
the host of the Women in PR podcast
available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and more.
(
https://soundcloud.com/user-654979149)
.
Reach out to Dr Adi on Twitter (@ana_adi), her own website
(www.anaadi.net) or LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/anaadi/) .
Dr Edna Ayme-Yahil is Senior Director, Head of Communications, Brand and
Sustainability at SITA since 2020.
Prior to this, she worked at Panalpina, where she was SVP Head of Marketing and
Communications prior to the takeover of the company by DSV. Previously, she
led Communications at EIT Digital, the leading European digital innovation and
entrepreneurial education organization driving Europe’s digital transformation.
Edna has developed and delivered integrated communications and brand
strategies in large global companies and public organizations, including Nissan,
STMicroelectronics, Philip Morris International, and UNESCO. She is currently
a board member and former managing VP for the European Association of
Communications Directors.
Born in the United States, Edna has lived in Europe for the past twenty years
in France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Ana Adi
Edna Ayme-Yahil
Beyond Feminization:
Women in PR Can Be the
Key to a More diverse,
Ethical and Inclusive PR
Page 8
Allen, K. (2016). The need for more women in power. PRSA. Available from:
https://apps.prsa.org/Intelligence/Tactics/Articles/view/11548/1128/The_Need_
for_More_Women_in_Power#.Xs0loMaxXfY
Demetrious, K. (2013). Surface effects: Public relations and the politics of
gender. Gender and public relations: Critical perspectives on voice, image
and identity, 20-45.
Fazackerley, A. (2020) Women's research plummets during lockdown - but
articles from men increase. The Guardian. Available from: https://www.
theguardian.com/education/2020/may/12/womens-research-plummets-
during-lockdown-but-articles-from-men-increase
CIPR (no date) Gender pay gap. Available from: https://www.cipr.co.uk/
genderpay
Grunig, L. A., Hon, L. C., & Toth, E. L. (2013). Women in public relations: How
gender inuences practice. Routledge.
IABC (2020) Women in Communication: Pathway to Success. Available from:
https://iabcemena.com/uk/women-in-communication-pathway-to-success/
Melgin, E. (2014) Gender imbalance: why is the female-dominated PR industry
still led by men? Available from https://www.ipra.org/news/itle/gender-
imbalance-why-is-the-female-dominated-pr-industry-still-led-by-men/
Risi, J. (2016) Public relations agencies are dominated by women. So why are
all their leaders men? Retrieved from https://qz.com/631499/public-relations-
agencies-are-dominated-by-women-so-why-are-all-their-leaders-men/
Saltzman, J. (2012). The image of the public relations practitioner in movies
and television, 1901–2011. The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, 3,
pp. 1-50.
Yeomans, L. (2019). Public Relations as Emotional Labour. Routledge.
Yaxley, H. M. (2013). Career experiences of women in British public relations
(1970–1989). Public Relations Review, 39(2), 156-165.
References
... These relationships manifest as the mother being the primary caregiver and developing soft skills in their offspring. The development of these soft skills is crucial to the roles in the PR industry, with communications often considered a woman's role because of the need to be empathetic and understanding as well as to listen to an audience (Adi & Ayme-Yahil, 2020). ...
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Research shows that women face barriers in their work, either by not having enough support to keep the position and maintain a family or through the glass ceiling, unequal pay, etc. This study researches all those issues, adding to the body of work undertaken by Topić et al (2019), however, it also looks at the working culture, such as networking, interaction at work, dress codes, ability to see other senior women as role models, and expectations of women working in the industry to establish whether organizational culture and the socialization process influence women’s ability to progress in their careers. Although the PR industry in North America is highly feminised with a 64% female workforce, only 59% of managers are women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). The masculine work patterns that underpin other workplaces are also prevalent in PR, with long working hours, unattainable work-life balance and difficult and unequal career progression. This study is based on 16 interviews with women working in the public relations industry in North America (the United States and Canada). Qualitative interviews were conducted through the Organization of Canadian Women in Public Relations and American Women in Public Relations with 16 interviewees; 14 at a managerial level and two in roles in a lower hierarchical position than a manager, to explore lived experiences of women working in public relations, as well as the office culture and socialisation and leadership. The majority of interviewees are in their 40s and their 30s. Findings show early sex-typing in childhood had manifested as gendered roles in the workplace, with subversive mothers and male figures embedding a hustle culture to ensure success for the women. However, this did not protect women from the implicit and explicit gender bias in the workplace, that champions men above women, who are in turn scrutinised for their roles. Change is happening, and some elements of the office culture, such as the dress code, are not rooted in gender. All participants valued a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics in leaders, with empathy noticeably demonstrated more in female leaders. Women’s experiences in PR in North America were characterised by long working hours, with work taking precedence over family life and the implicit - and at times explicit - suggestion that to further careers, family life had to suffer. Women leaders were more empathetic to the issues women faced about maternity leave, breastfeeding and looking after children, but that didn’t necessarily benefit the women in any meaningful way, though some saw an increase in flexibility. This lack of flexibility in some instances can manifest as discrimination against women who historically and traditionally also have the pressure of raising a family, thus posing questions about the ability of a work/life balance. Most of the women thought this descriptor was problematic and that instead the term ‘flexible working pattern’ should be used, therefore shifting the focus from work to flexibility through the syntax of the phrasing.
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This study foregrounds career experiences of women working in public relations in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s, a time when female employment in the field increased tenfold. Descriptive oral history interviews with seven women identified a post-facto connection with initial opportunistic experiences of public relations described universally as ‘exciting’. Despite a lack of purposeful career direction, interviewees evidenced agentic self-efficacy, not typically expected from women. Male and female role models acted as proxy agents influencing career advancement, however, the women did not act as change agents for younger female practitioners; indeed they were critical of subsequent generations.
The need for more women in power
  • K Allen
Allen, K. (2016). The need for more women in power. PRSA. Available from: https://apps.prsa.org/Intelligence/Tactics/Articles/view/11548/1128/The_Need_ for_More_Women_in_Power#.Xs0loMaxXfY
Surface effects: Public relations and the politics of gender. Gender and public relations: Critical perspectives on voice
  • K Demetrious
Demetrious, K. (2013). Surface effects: Public relations and the politics of gender. Gender and public relations: Critical perspectives on voice, image and identity, 20-45.
Women's research plummets during lockdown -but articles from men increase. The Guardian
  • A Fazackerley
Fazackerley, A. (2020) Women's research plummets during lockdown -but articles from men increase. The Guardian. Available from: https://www. theguardian.com/education/2020/may/12/womens-research-plummetsduring-lockdown-but-articles-from-men-increase
Women in Communication: Pathway to Success
IABC (2020) Women in Communication: Pathway to Success. Available from: https://iabcemena.com/uk/women-in-communication-pathway-to-success/
Gender imbalance: why is the female-dominated PR industry still led by men
  • E Melgin
Melgin, E. (2014) Gender imbalance: why is the female-dominated PR industry still led by men? Available from https://www.ipra.org/news/itle/genderimbalance-why-is-the-female-dominated-pr-industry-still-led-by-men/
Public relations agencies are dominated by women. So why are all their leaders men?
  • J Risi
Risi, J. (2016) Public relations agencies are dominated by women. So why are all their leaders men? Retrieved from https://qz.com/631499/public-relationsagencies-are-dominated-by-women-so-why-are-all-their-leaders-men/