Where are the support networks for gay PR people?

The PR world has always had a large number of gay practitioners but support networks for this community remain notably absent.

Approximately 10 per cent of men working in PR are gay, writes Alex Singleton
Approximately 10 per cent of men working in PR are gay, writes Alex Singleton
As a closeted young press officer in London at the end of the 1990s I was surprised by how many gay people I met working in PR, particularly at public affairs agencies. 

And I was impressed at how open and comfortable people were about something my impeccable Sunday school education had told me was a sin.

The numbers of gay practitioners are revealed in the statistics: a whopping 10.2 per cent of men working in PR are gay, according to a survey by the CIPR (just 1.6 per cent of the general population told an Office for National Statistics survey that they were gay). 

Despite this, there remains a perception among gay PR practitioners that their sexuality is something they ought to hide.

I know of a number of those working in PR who have felt the need to go back into the closet on occasion – if only so that they see the cultural lay of the land in a new workplace before being frank about who they are.

We know that there is a tendency in the economy as a whole to pay more to those fulfilling a masculine male stereotype. 

Men earn more than women, women who are lesbian are paid more than those who are straight, and transgendered people who become women see their salaries drop, while those who become men gain better-paid work. 

Gay men reportedly earn five per cent less than their straight colleagues.

In PR, though, the sector seems more progressive and the discrimination against gay men might not be normal there at all. 

In fact, gay men tend to be statistically underrepresented in junior jobs and overrepresented in senior jobs - implying that they tend to join PR as a second career and that there are few barriers to career advancement.

Despite this, too many in PR still feel unable to disclose their sexuality to colleagues. 

That’s unfortunate and it shows why people – whoever they are – need role models to help them overcome concerns and set a roadmap for their careers. 

Groups such as Women in PR and the Taylor Bennett Foundation, which helps black and minority ethnic graduates get on in PR, have done sterling work. 

But so far a support network for those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered remains notably missing.

Alex Singleton is head of media relations at London First

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