By Emma Duke
One of the most powerful elements of the CIPR’s State of the Profession report (alongside a truly horrifying statistic that less than 1 in 10 of PR practitioners are from a BAME background) is the glaring issue of how many women work in PR – more than 40,000, representing 63% of the industry – and the whacking pay gap. In fact the ONS data used to complement the report showed a decline in women working in PR since 2013.
Why are women leaving the profession? Maybe this is why:
By the time women have been working in PR for 17-20 years they experience a pay gap of more than £18,000. This might be explained by a lack of progression: while women dominate management roles (35% to 33%), by the time you get to Director/Partner/MD roles, men outstrip women by 26% to 18%.
Why is it so hard to become a female leader in PR??
Is there actually a truly awful correlation between the (current) dominance of women in our industry and the reason why practitioners cite the under-representation of PR at Board level as the biggest challenge facing the industry?
If we accept that this is part of the problem, this could, in turn, be part of the solution. We need to start supporting women as leaders if we’re going to address the challenge of leadership more broadly in our profession.
There are many cultural factors at play here, but assuming that the ‘work-hard, play-hard’ culture is the problem (as I’ve heard previously) is insulting both to the profession and the women working in it.
I’ve written previously about the ‘imposter syndrome’ I think public relations suffers from – we need to move beyond this. We need to recognise the female talent we have within the industry, nurture it (hello mentoring and leadership development programmes), and enable it to flourish (flexible working for both men and women.
Public relations is plagued with enough stereotypes and misconceptions, a gaping paygap and perceived lack of leadership should no longer be part of what this industry is known for.
In the spirit of recognising female leadership in the industry we will be launching a series of blog posts by Oxford’s leading female PRs over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out and get in touch with us if you would like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Duke is Head of Communications, Oxford Education at Oxford University Press.