By Siona Chibber
When I switched my major to public relations and began participating in PR/Advertising events and classes, I quickly noticed many of the people in these careers were women. I was shocked by this because I had never heard of a job consisting primarily of women over men. Especially considering that PR is a form of business work which is generally male-dominated.
Turns out, it is very common to see women go into communications, writing or even managerial industries. According to The Atlantic, “women make up 63 percent of public relations specialists and 59 percent of all PR managers.”
Although women make up a huge majority of these careers, they are still severely underpaid to their male counterparts. On top of that, the few men who do work in this industry work in the topmost leadership positions over all these hard-working women.
Because of this systemic gender discrimination and bias, women in this field of expertise have taken on the opportunity of creating their own firms and agencies to get the leadership roles they’ve worked so hard to earn in the duration of their time in the PR space.
Additionally, the concept of parental leave and caregiving has generated a heavy amount of bias towards women and resulted in them being taken less seriously with their work and questioned on their level of competency. This issue has also caused a major setback throughout the history of women working in public relations.
When we take a deeper dive into both the gender pay gap as well as the divide amongst varying racial and ethnic minority groups, the salaries begin to decrease more and more. A black woman in a public relations career, for instance, would be put in a much more disadvantaged position than not only her male counterpart, but also her white female counterpart in the workforce.
While many firms and organizations have taken steps to ensure DEI&A (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) for clients and in media materials, internal discrimination both systematically and behaviorally among co-workers and higher-ups in these jobs is still present. Companies must “walk the walk” to treat their diverse employees with respect.
Putting emphasis on the concept of DEI&A in the PR world will not only benefit those who work in these areas, but can benefit their clients and organizations as well. If these communities were able to collaborate and gain feedback from varying perspectives, it could help them gain a better understanding of their audience segments. This becomes an advantage to both parties’ businesses in terms of garnering a larger, diverse workforce.
Because of the way women have been treated in the workplace across varying fields in terms of lower salaries, prejudice, depreciation and general discrimination, to see such a large population of them encompass a single industry greatly impacts the work environment. This issue is being talked about more due to the recent influx of PR positions and the societal impact these disparities bring.
Research published by The Plank Center and The Page Society points to double standards, workplace structures and social attitudes against women as contributing factors inhibiting women’s leadership advancement in the communications field. As a current student and future practitioner, this research is upsetting.
I’m hopeful that the field’s future will bring more equity and increased awareness of women’s contributions. Keeping women of color in mind is especially important as we address the systemic issues our industry faces.
Fortunately, DePaul works to promote diverse viewpoints and amplify women's voices in the PRAD industry and beyond. One way the institution is proving this fact is by hosting a Women in Communication panel on Wednesday, May 17.
I will be attending the event to hear from the star-studded lineup including Stacy Sharpe (CCO at Allstate), Kelly Graves (President at FCB), Cheryll Forsatz (VP of Corporate Communications and PR, Ferrero), Susan Howe (President at Weber Shandwick) and moderated by Ellen Ryan Mardiks (Chairwoman at Golin).
With the discrepancies in benefits for the women working in the “feminized” field of PR in mind, this panel will provide an opportunity to ask candid questions to some of the top woman leaders in the industry. I’m excited to attend and hear their insight.
Join the conversation hosted by PRAD Graduate Classes on May 17th in Daley LL102, 6PM to 7:30PM.