Why the PR industry needs to flex its muscles and support its women

I took the decision to go freelance in 2005. I looked at my peers struggling with their home and board responsibilities and thought - 'no thanks', writes Nicky Imrie of The PR Network

The PR industry needs to flex its muscles and support its women, argues Nicky Imrie
The PR industry needs to flex its muscles and support its women, argues Nicky Imrie
I didn’t have children myself, but wanted to find a way to continue my PR career without compromising home life. 

I have personally interviewed hundreds of brilliant women. I’ve heard the same story: fantastic company, great clients, lovely team – and terrible work/life balance. 

Ten years on, why does the PR industry still lose so many talented working mothers to the "PR Graveyard"? 

Simply put, flexible roles are not always fully supported by our industry, despite it being female-dominated. 

Sometimes, even working mothers themselves don’t know their options or how to ask for what they want. 

I believe many employers want to make life easier. It’s often not their fault that the wheels come off when a working mum is trying to juggle. 

In my opinion it’s the nature of PR and the fact we are still trying to fit it into an outmoded 9 to 5 way of working. 

The business world has changed, but the PR industry has not been progressive enough, or employers sufficiently flexible – they still drive a long hours culture. 

Flexibility is the future 
90 per cent of PR employers still prefer people who can work 9 to 6, four to five days a week. 
However, aside from urgent communication issues and media sell-ins, there is very little in PR that must be done strictly between 9am to 5pm. 

If you have an international client base and a team spanning 24 countries, having a mixed workforce that includes staff prepared to work ‘out of hours’ is actually a huge asset. 

Job sharing that works for all
PR is a demanding profession, because we are client servicing. Clients are under pressure themselves and they do not want to hear that their AD is at a school play or child No.3 has chicken pox. 
This is the argument against job shares that was put forward at a panel discussion in May with Women in PR.  

I raised the issue of job shares and questioned why they are not more common in an industry so heavily populated by women. 

Barriers to job shares include: perceived complexity of setting up such an arrangement in the first place; concerns over how it will work in practice, for example how tasks are handed over, and that clients don’t want to have to speak to different people about the same project/task. 

However, these are all smashed by the benefits. I work in a successful job share myself so I know that they work: for the job sharers, for the employers - two hard working, bright females for the price of one? Yes please - and also for clients or stakeholders. Clients simply want reassurance that someone senior will be available to answer questions, allay fears and communicate next steps. 

Careers for life
As an industry, we need to collectively make sure that we are offering women realistic choices to allow them to continue building a successful and happy career. 

That way we’ll keep the talent we’ve invested in for the past 15 to 20 years, and balance out the gender issue at the top level.

Nicky Imrie is co-founder of The PR Network

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