Opinion: Leader - Gender balance will come with maturity

The PR industry is unique in the UK economy in the sense that the people it employs are predominantly highly educated women. And this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future; our feature this week reveals that 83 per cent of students on PR undergraduate courses are female.

While one would expect the likes of Michael Buerk - who recently slammed the media's domination by 'women's values' - to bemoan this fact, our investigation also uncovers some concern by female agency bosses, who feel a better ratio of men would help their businesses.

It is argued, rightly or wrongly, that clients tend to prefer a more balanced team working on their accounts. The in-house picture is somewhat more complex of course.

As a male writer one senses tricky ground here, but it helps to have had six years experience working as a PR consultant, first in a small agency as the sole male, then in a larger agency that was around 90 per cent female.

Indeed, an older female colleague was once heard to announce: 'PR is really a women's profession you know.' Fortunately, she was inherently misguided.

It is not difficult to understand why women are attracted into PR. As a relatively young industry, it is not encumbered by some of the old-school male traditions of other professions. It is often viewed as glamorous and creative, and with an emphasis on the 'softer business skills' of communications and relationship building.

This perception, only partly true to life, equally deters some men from seeing it as the career for them.

The conclusion our feature draws is that the profession probably could do with a few more men in it, but should certainly beware tokenism.

As PR is gradually being taken more seriously by UK plc, it should automatically attract - and, just as importantly, retain - the right mix and calibre of staff.

Feature, p20.

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