In an industry once dominated by men, women now outnumber their male colleagues and the trend shows no signs of abating. Have female professionals become a new PR super breed?
Women have definitely made their mark in the PR business over the last 20 years, to the extent that there is now a major shortage of men coming into the profession, and that’s official.
According to latest membership figures released by the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), women now outnumber men by 60:40 – a massive swing since 1987, when figures highlighted the opposite at 20:80.
Across the Midlands the pendulum towards women in PR remains in line with national statistics, so what’s brought on this amazing phenomenon, which has seen the fairer sex starting to smash through the glass ceiling in this industry?
Have women become a super breed in the world of PR, and why has it happened in this particular industry?
One of the reasons behind the success of women PR professionals is undoubtedly the flexibility of the profession, as it provides the opportunity for career-minded women to have it all in terms of high powered jobs, while still balancing family life – at least to some degree.
PR is probably one of the most fragmented professions in the United States and comprises a mix of in-house, independent and consultancy-based practitioners.
The emergence of electronic technology has also spawned the independent sector creating thousands of one-man band and freelance operators – who are predominantly women. However at the top of the PR tree, men continue to make their mark.
This is particularly true among the large US-based agencies, where a major proportion of directors and chief executives are male and continue to seize the high ground, having worked their way up through the industry since their domination during the 1980s.
While men continue to be in short supply at the entry level, a high proportion of those that are involved in the profession are operating at board level, but for how much longer?
Their numbers have also been swelled by the exodus of male journalists jumping ship into the PR profession, as the media moguls restructure their empires and introduce massive swathes of job cuts.
So what is it about the profession that is attracting women rather than men, and what is the picture likely to be in another 20 years’ time?
“When you regularly receive CVs from people even willing to work for nothing just to get their foot in the door, it certainly demonstrates how popular the profession has become, but like any profession, what the industry wants is quality not quantity, not to mention more men.
“The root cause of the problem is perhaps the perception of PR, which is still not being taken seriously enough and is often viewed as a bit girlie in certain quarters.
“Nothing of course could be further from the truth, as the role of PR climbs even higher up the boardroom agenda.
“Just like other industries, there are good and bad operators – and those involved in fluffy-type PR activities soon discover the advertising department is next door when it comes down to highly-complex business management issues requiring strategic initiatives to make a serious financial difference to the bottom line.
“One of the reasons for the proliferation of women versus men at the junior entry level is their willingness to be totally hands-on, take on administration roles initially and work their way up the promotional ladder.
Women also tend to be more practical than theoretical, particularly when it comes to attention to detail, which are critical success factors behind award-winning PR campaigns.
“Dare I say it, but one of the main reasons behind our growing dominance in the market place is that as a general rule we are better than men at thinking on different levels all at the same time.
It’s just part of our make-up.
According to Gidon Freeman, editor of PR Week, the gender readership split for the industry’s magazine has moved even more in favor of women with a 65:35 ratio, but he’s not at all surprised by the breakdown.
“PR is all about developing relationships and bringing influence to bear, which historically women have always mastered better than men,” he says.
“By the very nature of their profession, PR employers tend to be more flexible and are also happy to accommodate their loyal employees who are return-to-work mothers.”
What this all means is that if you’re male, highly intellectual with really good organization and communication skills, plus the charisma and personality to make your presence felt, you’ve got a really good chance of making it big time in PR.
The chance to stand out from the crowd is there for the taking.