In our previous LinkedIn poll, a resounding 93% of the respondents agreed to the perception that there are more women than men in the PR industry – either outright or on a role-dependent basis. We at Image Management decided to follow this up with a poll that delved deeper into the reasons behind this gender disparity. The results not only provided some great insights into what PR professionals think about this situation, but this also proved to be our most popular poll yet – with hundreds of comments displaying an array of perspectives regarding gender and public relations.
With the sensitivity of the issue in mind, Image Management ran a poll on LinkedIn to gauge what Public Relations professionals across the world thought the main reason could be for having more women than men in the industry.
Our question asked them to identify Why There Are More Women Than Men in PR from a list of pre-determined answers which included:
1) Women are better at multitasking
2) Women are better communicators
3) Women are better conflict/crisis managers
4) Women work better under stress
5) Women are more persuasive with clients
As demographically varied responses came in from public relations professionals across the world – which PR practitioners from India, Europe, the Middle East, UK, Australia, Canada, Africa and the US contributing – the results were clear. 44% of the responders agreed that the reason is because women are better communicators than men. Roughly similar numbers believed that women are better multi-taskers (24%) and more persuasive with clients (22%). Finally, only 9% believed that women are better crisis managers, while not a single respondent agreed that women work better under stress!
While it is clear that certain, traditionally-identified, key skills such as communication, multi-tasking, and persuasiveness were identified as the primary reasons for there being more women than men in the industry, it became clear in the slew of comments we received that there were certain other factors which might impact this perceived gender imbalance in terms of PR professionals.
The following are the top 10 inferences from our latest poll:
1) Women are better social communicators – A resounding number of poll comments centered on the fact that women are simply better communicators than men. Garima Nijawhan, Associate Account Manager at Text 100, felt that while all the options in the poll were true, the most pertinent of them was the fact that “women are better communicators.” Business Development Manager from New York, Michael Pang agrees, saying that “women on average have better social skills than men; I’ve definitely met more awkward guys than awkward women.”
2) But, the glass ceiling still exists – Respondents, though, were quick to point out that gender disparity in PR was often reversed at the managerial level. Probably supplanting why such few respondents said that women are better crisis managers, Maria Pavlova (Junior Account Executive at Champion Communications in Southampton, UK) says “Yes, there are more PR female professionals – around 70% but then they are not at the top of the ladder. I’m trying to make a point here: that the glass-ceiling is a fact and it exists everywhere, even in PR.”
3) Perception of PR as a soft profession – Some felt that the reason was the reluctance of men to join a profession that is sometimes perceived as a “soft” profession. Zahid Hussein, President Sustainable Resource Foundation in Pakistan, feels that “men leave the innocuous “other” professions like school teachers, PR – the soft ones that don’t endanger the male domain – to women.” Dick Wolfe – SVP of Public Affairs at MWW Group in New York agrees – “PR is considered a “soft skill” in the US and most men either want to do something technical, be a hard-charging entrepreneur or a financial shark and make gazillions of dollars”
4) Women connect with clients better – Another view is that women are better at connecting with clients and understanding their needs. This is two-fold. On the one hand, women are more likely, according to Sarah Parker, Communications Associate at BAE Systems, to “take work home and think about a situation over and over again… because of an emotional connection.” Secondly, women also connect better with, mostly male clients. As Damilola Sanni, Public Relations professional at MOCPED in Nigeria, puts it: “By nature, women are more flexible and they get clients easier than men.”
5) Women cooperate better – As Steve Hansen, Career Development Specialist at Workforce Investment Act and former PR pro, puts it: “tend to be cooperative; men, competitive. We have learned in PR that we get much more mileage out of cooperation than confrontation. PR has become kinder and gentler over the years. For instance, now it’s as much about when and how to admit you’re wrong as how to prove you’re right.”
6) Historical perspective – There are also certain historical trends, particularly in the US, that drove more women into PR. David Brimm, Founder and President of Brimm Communications, added this insightful historical perspective “Many female teachers gravitated into PR during the 1980s and 1990s, making a decision to seek careers with more perceived prestige than teaching (which is an indictment of the US education system) and they also were willing to accept lower starting salaries (which has come back to haunt the profession). This trend has continued. Attend any PR function and 75% of the attendees are women. This is not likely to reverse anytime soon.”
7) Women are more image conscious – As Roberto Alas, CEO of Men Fashion Style in El Salvador says, “Women are more conscious about personal and professional image, and how to use it as a tool to develop an outstanding presence in any business field rather than Men.” Perhaps it is their attention to appearance and image that helps them better execute strategies to improve the image of their client.
8) Better at following orders? – Some respondents put it down to the fact that women are better at following orders from management – and thus, better are executing targets and goals for clients more effectively. As Freddy Santamaria, Communications Consultant at Santamaria Inc., puts it, women are “more flexible to management orders.”
9) Regional differences – Some of our readers like Michael Effiong James, Editor at Ovation Magazine in Nigeria, are quick to point out that this may not be a worldwide trend and that regional differences still do exist. He says “in Nigeria where I operate, it is far from the case here [that there are more women in PR].”
10) Is gender balance even important? – Sarah Parker makes the point that “PR is a domain just more suited to women” just like there is a high male population in the “submarine building division” of her company. Turqut Muhammet Caliskanlar from the NRDC in Turkey points out, “the question is not related with the gender. It is only about the efficiency.”