Much of the editorial comment around International Women’s Day has touched upon the persisting inequalities in the workplace. On the whole, men outstrip women in terms of pay, seniority and power but public relations is one of the few industries in which the gender bias is skewed in women’s favour.
A 2011 study showed that over 64% of the UK PR industry is female, continuing a trend of female domination that has beset the industry since the 1980s. With the array of disadvantages women face across the globe (Uni Lad and Rush Limbaugh’s latest tirade being just two) it is tempting to celebrate this fact. But as has long been recognised, a lack of diversity is rarely a good thing. The arguments wielded by organisations such as the 30% Club (a group that seeks to increasing female representation on boards) about the value of incorporating a broad range of views, values and experience into the decision making process, are just as relevant to our industry.
Ideally, gender wouldn’t matter but the truth is that reputation of PR as a woman’s game can make our jobs as advisors more difficult. The indefatigable ‘old boys’ mentality that pervades throughout the business world, and a heavily male dominated media continues creates an environment in which anything perceived as feminine can be easily marginalised or undermined. The shudder inducing stereotype of the ‘PR Girl’ therefore does us a great disservice in our day-to-day work.
Even those in the industry are often guilty of thinking the same way. I despaired when I heard a former colleague lament the fact that a rival agency brought along not one but two grey haired men to a pitch. Why would this immediately put her all female team at a disadvantage? Perhaps if the gender bias were to be redressed then maybe having a Y chromosome present wouldn’t be so much of a USP…