When I attended my first Public Relations Society of America meeting 30 years ago, just four out of 40 attendees (including my boss) were women. Go to a meeting similar today and the gender ratios have flipped. When you attend Hofstra’s PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) meetings or any PR class, it’s the same: a very high percentage of female versus male students.
This week, in a nymag.com article titled, “Why Do We Treat PR Like a Pink Ghetto?” reporter Ann Friedman writes that “73 to 85 percent of PR professionals are women,” and goes on to lament, “On a New York Observer list of fictional publicists in pop culture, every notable character since the mid-’80s is a woman — typically sharp-tongued but not supersmart.”
Friedman also notes that 80 percent of upper management PR positions are held by men. “It’s women, often young women, who are likely to be doing the grunt work of sending emails and writing tweets and cold-calling contacts,” she writes. In her article, Friedman correctly makes other cogent points about our respective professions, and questions whether journalists are judging these young professional women fairly.
“(They do) the very work that journalists, and the rest of us, are likely to see as fluffy,” she adds, “Even when women are doing promotional work at higher levels, they still struggle for respect.” She says in many cases, the lack of respect comes from misconceptions about the PR profession, and reporters’ resistance to the idea of promoting anyone.
Friedman writes that promotion and even the necessary self-promotion are core professional dilemmas for women publicists. “You’d think that in the social-media era, the rest of us would be able to relate… Perhaps it’s time for us all to recognize that walking it isn’t easy,” she wisely notes.
So how do PR women–and men–earn the respect they so highly deserve? They do it by being reliable and honest resources to journalists and colleagues. Today’s PR profession is indeed more pink than blue, and helpfulness and transparency are the keys to building respect. Your thoughts?