Why is PR dominated by women but lead by men?
You are about to have your first meeting with a PR specialist. Who do you expect to meet, a woman or a man?
Although public communication and particularly the world of advertising have been dominated by men for decades, in recent years, the proportions have changed significantly. Currently, the chances of meeting a woman in PR are substantially higher, since, at a global level, about 70% of PR jobs are held by women. Therefore, there's no surprise that the public relations industry has drawn a feminine public perception.
Why did women conquer PR?
One of the reasons is that women are perceived to be more empathetic than men, a hypothesis also supported by a Cambridge University study, which states that because of this more notable trait, women can recognize customers needs more easily, understand motivations behind them and respond appropriately.
Also, women are more social and attentive to what is happening in society and their immediate environment, and the latest data shows that they are using social networks more intensely, especially to strengthen personal and professional relationships.
In addition, according to the University of California, women work better in teams, with results that can be seen in more productive work environments and better organizational outcomes. The team dynamics usually engaged in the sphere of public relations are based on elements for which women are recognized: initiative, endurance, determination, integrity.
The female domination of PR is also related to the inclination of women towards specific fields of study, considering that journalism, sociology, and communication sciences are among the most popular domains in America, where the PR industry has the most important representatives.
Still, why do men lead?
Despite the fact that women hold approximately 70% of PR jobs, only 30% control leadership positions.
If you ask women what the main reasons for this gap are, they attribute their downfall to family commitments that fiercely compete with their professional life, to traditionalist organizational structures that favor men, and to the unconscious bias against women. They consider that most problems stem from the unequal distribution and disproportionate expectations related to family issues between men and women.
Gender discrimination, conscious or unconscious, related to women in leadership positions materializes in certain characteristics that are traditionally attributed to men - aggression, ambition, domination. This stereotype leads to the idea that the intense pursuit of a leadership position is an extension of "born leader" status for men, but undesirable and lacking femininity in women.
The 202-year long road to equality
Although, during the last ten years, there have been numerous political and social changes that have led to consistent changes in the labor market for women, statistically, they are still underrepresented in important management positions.
According to McKinsey & Company, which has been monitoring women in leadership positions since 2015, today, 44% of companies have three or more women at the highest level, as opposed to 4 years ago. The research shows that discrepancies start from the incipient layers of management, arguing that for every 100 men employed and promoted, only 72 women receive the same treatment, so a large part of them remain blocked at beginner levels. Thus, the disproportionate result from the top of the pyramid does not seem so surprising.
Moreover, studies show that even if women in leadership positions are graduates of more prestigious schools than men in the same roles, they are less likely to become company leaders, have shorter contracts as CEO, and are paid less for the same positions.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, the World Economic Forum benchmark document which measures the disparities between men and women every year, claims that there is still a 32% gender gap. The percentage may not seem impressive, but the estimated time to close the economic gap is - 202 years!
From a political point of view, things don't look any better, considering that out of the 149 assessed states, only 17 have female leaders, and only 18% are ministers and 25% parliamentarians.
And, although reports show an upward trend of improving the presence of women in top management, the percentage of those who hold senior management positions becomes even lower if we consider the 500 Standard & Poor's top for the most successful companies in the world - only 5%.
In Europe, the figures indicate a similar pattern to the global one, in which although 60% of the graduates are women, they only represent 33% of Europe's scientists and engineers. More women than men work part-time (75% of workers) and are employed in lower-value areas. Besides, women earn 16% less for every hour worked and only 6.9% reach the position of CEO.
A good sign is that, in Romania, there is a 41% share of women in leadership positions, a percentage higher than the European Union average, which is only 36%. However, women represent only 11% of board members.
The benefits of having women in top management
Today, productivity is the keyword for most organizations, and diverse management teams can be the secret of success. In mixed groups, at any level, more innovative approaches are developed and the decision-making process is more complex and efficient. Companies can benefit from the critical thinking and creativity that derives from the exchange of ideas between men and women in boards of directors.
The presence of a consistent number of women in management also contributes to creating an attractive working environment that helps in recruiting the best human resources. Future employees are increasingly interested in diversity issues in the workplace, and the most talented are pursuing more than financial rewards.
Promising resolutions for PR
The trend of women’s ascension in public relations top management positions is positive. The global leadership teams of the largest PR agencies worldwide have begun to look very diversified, and four of them have a female CEO - Weber Shandwick, BCW, Ketchum, Hill + Knowlton Strategies. Other companies have a consistent female presence in leadership roles: Edelman (equal number of women and men), FleishmanHillard (10 women - 8 men), MSL (6 women - 5 men).
In Romania, many of the most successful PR agencies are run by women (McCann PR, MSL The Practice, Ogilvy, Golin, Rogalski Damaschin Public Relations, Oxygen PR, Brain 4 Strategy, The House PR Agency, BDR Associates, DC Communication, 2activePR, CONAN PR). In this convoluted local environment for the development of the public relations industry, these women have built great companies, they contributed to the growth of the Romanian PR market, and continue to resist and bring value in this field.
The PR industry is a fortunate example of balancing the forces on the professional scene - a sector that understands that diversity leads to efficiency, creativity, and continuous development.
Now, if we go back to our first question ... in Romania, whom do you think you will meet?