PR Insight

Do men do better in PR because they are more career-focused?

Date: 05 October 2011 19:35

PR may be dominated by women in terms of numbers, but when it comes to power, more men rule. According to the CIPR’s last State of the PR Profession Report, women make up 65 per cent of the industry, yet men are almost twice as likely to be earning a salary in excess of £50,000. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that women are getting a raw deal in PR.

They might not take up stressful senior positions because they have better ways to spend their time. But if women do aim for the top, then it’s a matter of being focused, and ideally, starting early.

Angela Casey, managing director of agency Porter Novelli, Edinburgh, says that ambitious women in PR have to first be organised, and second, get on the fast track before having children: “The more senior you are when you have the maternity breaks, the easier it is, as people will be flexible around you, childcare is more affordable and you yourself will have the right attitude to deal with the breaks. As an industry that is quite female focused, it should not be difficult to get on, and with IT allowing home working and flexibility, everything is in our grasp. Being organised is vital – having supportive childcare in place and having the plannable things sorted, will allow you to deal with the unscheduled ones.“

But it is not just having kids that can interfere with careers. It is proven that older women are discriminated against in broadcast media, as shown by the case of ex-Countryfile host Miriam O'Reilly, when she won her employment tribunal against the BBC on the grounds of ageism. Is the same true of PR? Not according to Heather Yaxley, PR consultant, author and part-time lecturer at Bournemouth University, unless they are deliberately trading on their looks: “I don’t think it is harder for women to progress in PR as they get older, unless they are working in a sector that promotes the notion of PR bunnies – where the focus may be on using ‘erotic capital’ rather than brains.” 

Yaxley points out that there are many examples of senior, experienced, older women in PR. However, she has noticed that women tend to drop out of PR once they have children, which could indicate a culture of long-hours in the profession. Yaxley has also noticed that men seem to enter PR at a higher level (often as former journalists), securing greater credibility and higher salaries, “I think this is an important issue as there could seem to be different career paths between the genders.”

So if women fail to get to the top in PR, this could be because either they don’t want to, or because they are treading the wrong career path. David Alexander, director at agency Calacus Public Relations, is convinced that women get a fair deal in PR. He has worked at PR firms Weber Shandwick, Hill and Knowlton and Porter Novelli, two of which have female managing directors who, he says, “were appointed because of their talent and not for any other reason.”

Alexander adds: “Hill and Knowlton and Porter Novelli were both female-orientated with men firmly in the minority – I think because women are often a lot more methodical with the systems and processes of PR than men, and also because they are better suited to many of the consumer products they have to promote because they are the target audience.”

Although Alexander admits it’s more of an even split of the sexes in corporate PR, he concludes: “Women do more than hold their own.”


Rachel Knight, account director at media relations and marketing consultancy Maxim:

“I think women have to work a little harder to be taken seriously in the B2B world, as it is assumed they are better at consumer PR. Personally, I’ve always preferred B2B clients, but that often means working in a male-dominated environment. It’s not just down to sex though; age is a contributory factor. Walking into a room full of suits in my early 20s was rather intimidating, but these days I feel I’ve proved myself and it’s less of an issue.”

Sarah Hughes, associate director at agency Berkeley PR:

“I don’t think the profession treats women unfairly. I think we may just have different priorities and are a little less ruthless when it comes to our careers. Many of us have career breaks to start a family and play a larger role at home which often means we can’t give quite as much to work.”

Rassami Hok Ljunberg, director of PR agency Rassami:

“Women always suffer more from both ageism and sexism, whatever the industry!”

Written by Daney Parker.

Share this article

    Sexism in PR??? What about the inappropriateness and ridiculousness of a group called 'Women In PR' run out of the PRCA?...Isn't that sexist? It is at least wholly unnecessary.

    Name: Caroline Black
    Date: 07 Oct 2011 09:08 AM

    Totally agree. Can I join in the 'Men in PR' group, do you think? It sounds much more career-focussed.

    Name: Heather Baker
    Date: 07 Oct 2011 10:03 AM

    Replace 'PR' with pretty much any professional services industry and all of these points are true. There's nothing unique about PR in this instance; the problem is far wider than that.

    Name: Howard

    Date: 07 Oct 2011 10:22 AM

    Utter tosh. Nothing to do with gender and everything to do with how good at your job you are. Build a business around yourself, get ingrained in clients and you'll become central to the business. It's not rocket science. And if you feel a colleague - any colleague - is being paid more than you, pull together an argument as to why you should get a pay rise. Less boo shooing and more getting on with it please.

    Name: Sophie Hodgson

    Date: 07 Oct 2011 01:58 PM

    What about hermaphrodites? This smells of duopoly to me.

    Name: Steve Earl
    Date: 13 Oct 2011 05:02 PM

    I had to Google both those words Steve!

    Name: Ben Smith
    Date: 13 Oct 2011 06:00 PM

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