EDITORIAL - Agency figures buck the trend

This week the issue of equal pay once again hit the headlines as

employment minister Tessa Jowell outlined measures intended to close the

UK pay gap between men and women - which is currently the widest in

Europe.



Admittedly the pay disparity is greatest among the unskilled but, as the

Equal Opportunities Commission has been at pains to point out,

professional women aren't immune to inequality.



At first glance, this year's PRWeek/Median Recruitment Salary Survey

indicates that the PR industry conforms to the nationwide pay trends of

pay disparity. However, some of the statistics buried in the survey

reveal a more complex picture, with UK PR consultancies appearing to

buck the trend.



In fact, from entry to board director level, women working in UK PR

consultancies actually appear to earn more than their male counterparts.

The differential narrows at a senior level, but among middle managers a

female account manager earns 30 per cent more than a male in the same

role. At account executive level this differential is 23 per cent.



The reasons for this inversion of the supposed UK norm are not

completely clear, but the pay levels point once again to the continued

difficulties that consultancies are having with retaining talented

middle management, and in particular preventing them from going over to

the supposedly 'cosier', and still popular, option of an in-house

role.



What does seem to be clear is that agencies are increasingly bending

over backwards in terms of benefits to tempt senior female account

mangers to stay. According to this year's respondents, women in agencies

tend to receive a greater percentage bonus - nine per cent more than

male PROs - and are more likely to be provided with a contributory

pension and a healthplan.



But, as ever, throwing money at the problem may not be sufficient. For

women, career prospects emerged as one of the greatest motivating

factors (quoted by 51 per cent, compared to 35 per cent of men), yet

only 20 per cent have made it to a board director level and above,

compared to 38 per cent of men.



So once again, while the current recruitment crisis may appear to be

lining the pockets of female account managers, the effects for many may

be shortlived. And for those who think that the grass may be greener on

the other side - a note of caution. A woman head of communications

working in the public sector will bring home 13 per cent less bacon than

her male counterpart, and six per cent less in the private sector.



Undoubtedly women fare better in PR than in many other sectors, but the

glass ceiling is far from shattered.



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