Women in PR. Is it just lack of self-esteem?

March 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

In class this week the focus was on women in PR. Women seem to dominate the industry in numbers but not in status. Yes ladies, men have most managerial positions in PR.
The class debate highlighted the issue of the many roles, which women need to fit into their lives: wife, mother and professional. It is not easy to balance these roles, but I think it is possible. These discussions seemed to assume that women operate in a vacuum with no support, like close friends  and family.  Maybe if relatives, grandparents and child loving friends (who might be parents themselves) pitch in on a regular basis and baby sitters and kindergartens, things would be different. I have seen examples. This choice of having all three positions is possible, with lots of long-term cooperation and support. Women who chose to have families still loose maybe a one to three years (assuming the father doesn’t go on leave instead from his job, which is possible in many countries). These years are hard to make up, but it might also depend on when it happens in your career.
So having it all start with a decision, courage, effort and plenty of support.

James E. Grunigs book called Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (1992.) addresses this issue in the chapter on Women and Public Relations: Problems and Opportunities.
First of all the ingrained  stereotypes of women follow them to the workplace as well. These are not just held by men but by women as well. Therefore women tend to underestimate themselves and the importance of the work they do. This is a self confidence issue.

The other thing that was identified as a structural issue was that the informal networking and decision making channels in the workplace is pretty much for men, by men.  Men in decision making positions often prefer this because they find it more conformable to work with people who are on the same level and from the same gender. This is of course problematic, because in any profession being excluded from these circles is a dead end to the career. Today’s trend in which women form professional     women’s forums are a reaction to this, but I’m not sure how effective it can be. How can two gender based circles, built to exclude each other, work together?

Women don’t just try to from similar structures that had been traditionally built by men but they often try to take on manlike personality traits. Hon Grunig and Dolzier found this is not the solution. Women who behave like men, or are perceived to do so are usually perceived negatively.  They suggest that instead of trying to turn into men, the industry needs to introduce feminine values and change the structure to accommodate women on all levels.
Furthermore the examples of women who made it to the top should be featured to encourage others.

Finally the equalization of women is a large scale social change that is mirrored in the workplace. Remember in many western countries women didn’t have the right to vote and now women have their own rights, lives and pursue all sort of professions.  Since PR is already a very feminized industry, it has good chance to be controlled by women sooner than other more masculine professions. Following this logic current trends are just temporary.

Image from: flickr.com

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