It’s not news that women dominate in terms of sheer numbers when it comes to PR. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold around 59 percent of PR management roles and 63 percent of PR specialist positions. Despite this, females are underrepresented in leadership roles in PR. This begs a question—why is it that more women work in PR than men? There actually has been some research done on this topic and here are the main takeaways.
The media has a lot to do with the number of women in PR. Without a doubt, the media paints a very glamorous picture of what it means to work in PR and advertising. Think of all the romantic comedies you’ve seen with the female lead working in a PR firm or Samantha Jones, the glamorous, confident and successful character from Sex and the City. Women appear to be more likely to prepare for a career in PR in college than men.
A study conducted by Philip N. Cohen, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland College Park, found 47 percent of women and 35 percent of men who are PR specialists or managers held a degree in journalism, English, communications, advertising/PR, business, and mass media. These are degrees you would most expect to lead to a career in PR. Of these majors, communications were the most popular, with 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men holding a communications degree.
Jennifer Hellickson, director of marketing at SweatGuru in Portland, Oregon, has her own views on why women dominate the industry. “Studies have shown that women tend to collaborate more and prefer to work on teams, whereas men usually do better in competitive environments and prefer to fly solo. That male approach works well for journalists while having a bit of a ‘people-pleaser’ gene probably attracts and/or makes it easier for women to excel in the PR environment.” The feminisation of PR also has to do with the job market. Journalism doesn’t pay well and is a very unstable industry. Whereas, with PR you get the benefits of better pay and a growing market. PR jobs are growing at a rate of 12 percent a year, whereas jobs in journalism are declining at about the same rate. There are some typical explanations about women’s ability to listen better or they are more social than men. However, these skills also apply to journalism, where women don’t dominate. Hellickson, who has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism, wanted to get into the world of glossy magazines. “But that thought quickly faded when I learned from classmates and colleagues about the high competition and low compensation”, she said.
If there is anything we can take away from this, it’s that there may be a number of reasons why there are more women in PR, and given the state of the industry, it hasn’t turned out too bad for them so women have continued to take on the PR throne.