The survey, conducted in partnership with Opinium, found progress toward equality has slowed compared to the 2020 Index, with more people thinking boardrooms are dominated by men, more having taken time off due to stress, and more thinking there is a gender pay gap at senior levels.
The questionnaire survey received 430 responses, with 52 per cent of respondents at board director level and 48 per cent with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. All but a "handful" of respondents were women.
According to the Index, childcare or caring responsibilities continue to be the biggest barrier for women, with three-quarters of respondents reporting they believe a lack of flexible working and family-friendly policies is preventing women from progressing into senior positions.
When asked what impact flexible working has on the careers of PR professionals, 28 per cent believed women progress more slowly than men; in the 2020 survey, 25 per cent believed that was the case.
Those who work agency-side were more likely to believe flexible working impedes career progression than those working in-house (31 per cent vs 23 per cent), something felt more strongly by PR professionals working in the UK (47 per cent).
The proportion of PR professionals who said their board comprises mostly or all women was nine per cent, unchanged on the previous year, having dropped from 14 per cent in 2019. More than half (54 per cent) of those surveyed that have a board of directors said they feel the gender split on their board is unfair, an increase from 46 per cent in 2020.
More PR professionals are taking time off work for stress, too. This year’s Index found that, while the majority (64 per cent) of PR professionals have not taken time off work due to work-related stress and anxiety, the number who have done so is up year on year (33 per cent in 2021 vs 27 per cent in 2020).
Angela Oakes, joint president and co-founder of GWPR, said: “With the changes to more flexible working practices being brought about by COVID-19 and a real recognition by businesses that women, and a truly diverse workforce, really do make a difference to the profitability of a company, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that our 2022 Annual Index will show that the dial has moved to a better place for all of us in our industry, which still remains two-thirds female.”
The PRCA's annual census, released in November, put the UK gender pay gap in comms at 12.7 per cent.
PRWeek UK examined the issue of gender and ethnicity pay gaps in the industry at length in a special project last year.