Is flexible working 'crucial' if more women are to take Asia's top PR jobs?

Latest meeting of Hong Kong PR Network also told that women find it "more difficult" to ask for career advancement

Natalie Reynolds, founder and managing director of advantageSPRING consulting
Natalie Reynolds, founder and managing director of advantageSPRING consulting

Flexible working, more high-profile female role-models and "learning to ask" for career advancement are three factors that will help gender equality in PR.

This was the outcome of a panel discussion assessing the role of women in the industry at the latest Hong Kong PR Network meeting.

According to industry research, women make up two-thirds of the communications industry’s workforce in Hong Kong. Additionally, women make up 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s entry-level roles in marketing and PR.

However, these figures are not replicated at leadership level, with only two of the 10 biggest agencies - FleishmanHillard and Burson-Marsteller - having women in the top executive seat. In Asia-Pacific, women only account for 25 per cent of senior management roles in the industry.

Panelists included Anne Geronimi, vice president & general manager of Ruder Finn Hong Kong, Christine Wood, managing director for Hong Kong at FTI Consulting, Bruce Shu, managing director of Greater China at Ketchum and Natalie Reynolds, founder and managing director of advantageSPRING consulting.

According to the panel, women generally find it more difficult than men to ask for what they want. Reynolds, whose firm trains professionals on the art of negotiation, noted: "This idea women carry has led to so many wasted opportunities for career advancement. It’s an action women inherently have a problem facing, but is also the one golden method for getting to where they ultimately want in their careers."

Another barrier women face is a lack of role models in senior positions. As Wood said: "As an industry, we’re in a phase where more female role models are needed at the executive level. We currently have the second generation of female leaders in the industry, who’ve progressed the work of the initial group of women that broke through the glass ceiling. I believe as the second generation continues to develop, there will be more role models for junior female communication professionals."

When asked how the industry could enable women to work and become leaders in the workplace, the panel strongly advised businesses to consider having a more flexible work environment so that working moms can succeed, something that was reflected in PRWeek Asia's in-depth Deep Dive feature on staff retention earlier this week.

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