If you ever step inside a public relations firm, chances are most of the employees are women. While there are still plenty of men in the industry, for the most part, it’s a female-dominated industry. PR is an especially inclusive industry for women, well that is, unless you consider the very top of the chain. Around 61% to 85% of all PR-related jobs are held by women, and women account for 59% of PR managers. Yet, figures released by the 2014 World PR Report estimated only 30% of all global PR agencies run by females.
PR is a field that attracts women because it’s client-focused, teamwork, and specialists are required to be fierce advocates for their clients – skills that are considered to be a good fit for women. On top of that, research suggests that having women in leadership roles is beneficial for the business. Companies with higher female representation in senior management roles tend to have higher returns on equities as well as higher returns to shareholders. Despite all of this, men are still dominating when it comes to the majority of the industry’s leadership roles at the highest levels.
How can we change this? Here are a few ideas:
1. More women on boards
The simple solution to this challenge is to improve gender diversity in the boardroom. A study conducted by a workplace-research group Catalyst study found more female board directors resulted in higher returns and lower risks of insolvency.
2. Better work flexibility
Unfortunately, work/life balance is still harder to achieve for women than men, especially since they bear the brunt of childcare, eldercare and domestic duties. There needs to be two shifts in this arena – men and women need to share these responsibilities equally. Additionally, companies need to offer employee benefits to ensure women remain and thrive in the workplace, such as telecommuting opportunities, flexible work schedule, and paid maternity leave.
3. Crush stereotypes
Despite many advances in opportunities for women in the workplace, sexism persists. Organizations need to recognize this. Stereotypes can hinder female career progression. For example, in a study done by Yale University, women who spoke up were more likely to face criticism, whereas men who spoke up were considered powerful. Companies need to accept stereotypes like this exist and take steps to challenge them.
4. Be your own advocate
Women are less likely to be self-promotional than men. Maybe because there are tendencies for women to be punished for advocating for themselves. In spite of the challenges women face because of stereotypes and biases, women need to speak up and fight for themselves. Don’t hesitate to share your successes with your supervisor and make sure your work gets the credit it deserves.
Taking a step back and assessing whether your company is employing gender-inclusive policies is step number one to making sure the PR industry is on the right track. That’s only the beginning. There’s a lot of work to do when it comes to creating equal opportunities for men and women to advance in the workplace but if we work together this industry could be the one to set an example on how to do things right.