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PR Population Report reveals gender pay gap worsening

The new PR Population Report, produced by reputation research company Chalkstream for the CIPR, is the latest in a series of studies that shine a light on the industry’s gender problems.

The study reveals a significant imbalance, with 66% of non-director roles occupied by women and a reversal at the senior level, where 54% are men. The results are consistent with the findings of the State of the Profession series.

Pandemic effect

The latest round of that research, undertaken in 2022, revealed that after a number of years of decline, PR’s gender pay gap actually grew over the pandemic.

These findings echo the wider literature and point to a broader industry issue: mid-career female practitioners leaving or not receiving adequate support for advancement.

Challenges for female practitioners

The State of the Profession series also provides us with a lot of detail about the challenges faced by female practitioners taking time out for childcare, in particular the uneven distribution of caring responsibilities between females and males and the failure of too many employers to support parents returning to work after any form of career break.

This is, as one friend and PR consultant described it to me, ‘a career ceiling that is almost impossible to get around’.

These inequities, like other forms of discrimination in the industry, are bad for the individuals affected and for the industry, which squanders so much talent as a result.

Society issue

Gender inequality is of course not unique to public relations. The Social Mobility Commission’s 2023 State of the Nation report says that despite better educational outcomes, women across professions will earn less later on and are less likely to be in what the commission describes as ‘higher professional jobs’.

But, as senior PR practitioner Katie Marlow neatly summarised when commenting on the report, the case for PR to get its house in order is compelling.

“The profession has a problem and like every problem first we need to recognise it, acknowledge it and then we can set about fixing it.”

Given the weight of evidence we cannot fail to recognise, in good faith, this substantial shortcoming. Now we need to fix it.

Written by Ben Verinder, MD at Chalkstream. 

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