The issue of gender-based discrimination in PR has been a hot topic
for 25 years, and even as women become ever-more dominant in the
profession and achieve ever-greater stature, it has remained a divisive
and time-consuming issue.
But it's time to challenge the assumption (and the statistics) which
suggest that sex discrimination is still rife, because it's increasingly
outdated and statistically flawed.
Let's take pay. With a dollars 20,000 discrepancy between the average
salary of a man and a woman (Source: PRWeek/Text 100 Salary Survey
2001), you can see why it's an emotive issue. But analysis of the
numbers (see opposite page) shows that gender has a negligible impact on
Another rising concern is that as women come to dominate the industry,
PR will be regarded as 'women's work,' and will therefore become a
ghetto of low pay. Yet this flies in the face of what's happening in the
real world. The incredible pay raises of the last three years (including
17% in 2000) has been brought about because the demand for PR has never
been higher (agencies have grown by 100% in the last five years).
And finally, there's the growing myth of the glass ceiling. The
burgeoning PR industry has given the new generation of female PR
managers unparalleled opportunity for advancement.
The agency side has shown the way, with 37 of the top 100 agencies run
by female CEOs. With several senior-level women now emerging within the
top firms, it can only be a short time before a major multinational is
run by a female CEO. On the corporate side, too, women hold the top PR
position at places like GE, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Barnes & Noble
and Starbucks, among others. And in non-profits, women dominate.
Of course, there are pockets of sex discrimination. A generation of
ingrained habits cannot be replaced overnight. But isn't it time we
celebrated the empowerment of women that PR has provided? It's time to
stop whining and enjoy this industry for a new bastion of equality.