Performance gap reveals gender bias in PR industry

Though women occupy two-thirds of the positions in the field, men are making more money and climbing higher on the corporate ladder.

Women don’t rule the PR world—at least, not yet.

Two-thirds of communicators in the global PR industry are women, as was revealed in a recent study from the Organization of Canadian Women in Public Relations and the Organization of American Women in Public.

Yet, 78 percent of chief executives in the top 30 PR agencies worldwide are men.

Male PR pros also take up 62 percent of boardroom positions. The survey also reported a difference of more than $6,000 a year when it comes to average annual salaries. Women in PR make an average of $55,212 per year compared to male counterparts’ average salary of $61,284.

Gender equality in the PR industry doesn’t improve as communicators grow older, either. Thirty-six percent of women surveyed said the industry is ageist—compared with 25 percent of their male counterparts who think the same.

However, that doesn’t mean that female communicators aren’t working to affect positive change in the industry.

“Women are a driving force in PR,” Deirdre Breakenridge, chief executive of Pure Performance Communications, said in a press release. “We are not just sitting back on the sidelines and watching change. We are making change happen.”

One reason for the industry’s pay and position disparity between genders is a lack of confidence when it comes to career development. Thirty percent of female-identified PR pros reported that their lack of confidence was keeping them from the top.

Though 13 percent of men surveyed said they were “not confident” asking for a promotion or pay raise, that number doubled among the women PR pros surveyed (26 percent). Conversely, 28 percent of male communicators believe they will “definitely” advance in their careers to obtain a coveted position, but only 18 percent of female communicators felt similarly confident.

Another reason for the gender gap in PR is a difference of priorities and needs when it comes to a good work/life balance.

Thirty-four percent of women surveyed said juggling the demands of a boardroom role with family commitments would be too hard, and 83 percent of PR pros surveyed who are parents said it was a challenge to balance work commitments and childcare.

The issue especially affects female communicators: two-thirds of women reported that they take the main responsibility with childcare.

“We still have unrealistic ideals and limitations in the work force for women,” Daniela Kelloway, founder and chief executive of ClutchPR, said.

One way to foster a better work/life balance is to provide flexible schedules. Fifty-six percent said they could perform their jobs without a fixed office space, and 81 percent said they could be just as efficient if they could choose their own hours.

However, PR pros globally work an average of 44 hours each week—and 68 percent of those surveyed said they had a good work/life balance.

How does your experience in the PR industry compare with the survey’s findings, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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