State of the Union: Women in the PR, Part 1

Women in Leadership
It’s a great time to be in the PR industry – shaping public perception of key issues, political figures, and new products coming to market.  Specifically, 2013 is a great year to be a woman in PR with plenty of room to push forward with networking playing a key role in making the move.

The formidable industry outlet PRWEEK offers two strong barometers in their ranking lists of professionals.  The growth of powerful woman within their awards speaks volumes – this year almost half of PRWEEK’s 50 Power List were women and more than half of their recent 40 under 40 honorees were women.

As many of us have seen firsthand, PR is an industry often dominated by women who are achieving results at all levels and taking on more and more leadership roles.  The rise of smart women in our field is an important and growing trend fueled by women in senior strategic business roles within PR companies and in the C-suite overseeing the PR function in-house.

It’s not just the role of women in PR changing – PR in the role of business is also shifting.  PR has increased visibility to become a strategic player at the corporate level for many large companies – putting many women at the management table.  Many women staff offices of PR agencies and many agencies have women at the helm, but still at the holding company level men outnumber women by substantial proportions. So there is room at the top of the industry for positive growth for smart, hard-working women.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Nearly 80 percent of the PR industry is comprised of women, but four out of every five leadership positions are held by men as reported by Ragan PR Daily earlier this year.

It’s not just a lack of leadership roles, the money lags too – the median salary for women is $80,500 while the median salary for men is $125,000. The gap exists at every level and appears to be stagnate, according to this year’s Bloom, Gross & Associates Salary Survey/PRWEEK.

The void of women in senior leadership is peculiar because the numbers show it’s a smart business move.  In fact, a recent Amex Open Forum study comparing growth of firms led by men and women discovered that women-owned companies have been more successful, growing at nearly double the rate. As published in Time Magazine, a Catalyst study reported that companies with women in the majority of senior management roles had higher returns on equities—by more than a 1/3.

As more women take strong leadership roles in PR it will be important for us to have a professional network of peers to learn from, and lean on. Professional organizations like the Public Relations Society of America have a female membership of 73 percent according to Ragan PR Daily and there are specific women-focused groups like the Washington Women in PR boasting a female membership of 94 percent.

While networking groups are a key tool for women to foster a professional community, it is important to note WWPR and other orgs are inclusive of men, recognizing the roles men and women play together in our industry.  Some of my strongest female bosses credit a male mentor in helping her achieve an apex in her career. It shouldn’t be about women supporting women for the novelty of it, but rather it should be about supporting female trailblazers who are revolutionizing our industry.

In fact, in order for our industry to continue to grow and drive measureable impact it’s not whether the senior leaders or the team is male or female – it is about having the strongest players and that’s what professional development and networking opportunities are here to facilitate – smart PR people.  Organizations like WWPR support women in the field of PR in order to strengthen our industry as a whole.
“A women’s net worth is her network – an Ethiopian saying that applies to PR,” commented Nancy Payne, Managing Director, Communications, Overseas Private Investment Corporation. 

Tina McCormack Beaty’s passion is food, local retail, and small businesses. Professionally focusing on strategic communications, branding, and entrepreneurial marketing using integrated tools of social media and PR. Currently, Tina is president of Washington Women in Public Relations and is an accounts lead on Porter Novelli’s foodie team. She also serves on Miami University’s (OH) Alumni Board. You can reach Tina at @TMStrategy.