Let me start by stating that I don’t think there is “a problem” with women in PR. But judging by the themed articles that crop up, year-on-year, clearly everyone else thinks there is.
It’s not that they believe there is a problem with women in the industry, but more, that women in the industry face problems. Namely:
- Lack of females in the Boardroom/at senior levels
According to most surveys PR jobs are “dominated by women” (around 65% are female). Now, in my opinion, just crossing the half-way line doesn’t deserve the term “dominated” but it’s pretty even so there’s no issue there surely.
- The “Gender Pay Gap”
The same surveys suggest that men are more likely to hold senior management/director positions and are almost twice as likely to be earning a salary in excess of £50,000. It’s not ideal, but it happens in many sectors.
E.g. when women complain that they enter meetings and the men in the room mistake them for the secretary or assume they’re making the tea.
I’m a woman. I’m a mother. I’m a PRO. So here’s what I think: PR doesn’t have a problem with women and women don’t have a problem with PR anymore than women have problems working in any other sector. Of course there should be more women at board level in the industry. Of course we should be paid equally for the same work. But we make babies (not alone I might add, but spare me the biology breakdown). It isn’t easy balancing childcare with a demanding job.
We could moan about it and ask for flexible working hours, we could worry about what we wear, we could allow people to typecast our personalities. Or we could just play to our strengths, have a bit of confidence and concentrate on ourselves instead of worrying what everyone else is doing/getting/thinking.
But what we must not do is continue creating these condescending articles dressed up as advice. I mean seriously, does wearing red affect how well I can perform my work duties? No. Does it matter if someone mistakes me for the minute-taker in a meeting? Not really.
And does it bother me that I can’t stay late every night like my male, non-parent colleagues? Not at all. I think work-life balance is actually helped by being forced to leave your desk sometimes. We’ll all pull our weight in a team but no-one need be a slave to their job. Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5” not “7am to midnight”.
Plus, being a woman isn’t all bad. We’re creative, we’re organised and we can multi-task. So my advice is to ignore the stereotypes and play to your strengths. Do the same job as your male counterparts in half the time, on half the sleep and for half the money!
I’m joking. Sort of.