Plank Center: Male vs. female perception gap of PR is widening

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and Heyman Associates surveyed 1,200 US-based PR executives to create a report card on the biggest issues among leaders in the profession.

TUSACALOOSA, AL: It’s no secret that men and women have different perspectives on the PR industry—and that gap is widening, according to a new study.

The gender gap grew in the 2017 survey in each subject area. Women’s perceptions of their lack of shared power in decision making, insufficient two-way communication, and de-valuing of their opinions are reflected their lower levels of trust in the organization and its culture, less confidence in leaders, and declining job engagement, the study found.

Women said that being successful in the field is challenging; the pay gap is real; the opportunity gap is real; and the "being-heard-and-respected-gap" is real. Trust in the organization, job satisfaction, and organizational culture scores each dropped from B- to C+. Women were much less trusting of their organizations, especially regarding the value of their concerns and opinions in decision making.

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and Heyman Associates surveyed 1,200 U.S.-based PR executives to create a report card on the biggest issues among leaders in the profession. This is the second time this study has been conducted; the first was in 2015.

Overall, respondents gave the PR industry a B- for job engagement, falling from a B+ in 2015. The decline in engagement is largely tied to lower engagement levels among women. In 2015, more women (61.3%) were engaged than men (57.9%). However, in 2017 more men (62.1%) were engaged than women (52.9%). In the non-top-leader group, less than half of women were engaged (46.4%), and nearly one in ten (9.7%) was actively disengaged.

Overall, 57.2% of respondents said they were engaged in 2017, versus 59.7% in 2015; 35.9% were not engaged versus 34.4%; and 6.8% were actively disengaged versus 6%. Many more top leaders were more engaged (71.7%) than others (50.1%).

Meanwhile, the percentage of those satisfied or very satisfied with their job declined from 66.7% to 61.9%. The percentage of those dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their jobs rose from 22.1% to 24.1%, while those neither satisfied nor dissatisfied rose from 11.2% to 14%. The biggest declines were among top leaders and women. More men (65.9%) were satisfied or very satisfied with their job than women (58.3%).

Another gap exists between top leaders and their staffers. Just like in 2015, PR leaders rated their own performance as exemplary, while their employees weren’t as impressed with them. Leaders gave themselves an A-, while staffers gave them a C+. Leaders received higher marks for ethical orientation and involvement in strategic decision-making but earned lower grades for their vision, relationship-building skills, and team leadership capabilities. Men ranked top-leader performance significantly higher than women.

To solve this issue, the study suggested increased power sharing, or leader-empowering behaviors; strengthened two-way communications; and enhanced interpersonal skills in teamwork, such as active listening and conflict management skills. 

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