Whether or not one sees the gap is often a matter of which side of it you’re standing on. The past 20 years have seen an influx of women into the practice of public relations, yet gender-based disparities in pay and advancement remain a troubling reality. As the field becomes feminized, female and male practitioners alike confront the prospect of dwindling salaries and prestige.

The absence of women’s voices, ideas and insights is the elephant in every room: from the newsroom, where women write and feature in just a fraction of the news; to the conference room, where male speakers outnumber women 4-1 and male panellists outnumber women 2-1, to the Boardroom where we are still not achieving the modest target of 30% women on boards and the Director’s chair in advertising and in the movies (where we are just one in ten).

There is a gaping diversity disparity between what corporations tell us about diversity and inclusion in terms of their strategy, their culture and their talent pipeline – and what they show us in the lack of diversity in the executives and subject matter experts they put forward to represent them.

This glaring invisibility really matters because women can’t be what we can’t see. 8 out of 10 UK high school students can’t name a famous woman working in PR: could this be because women don’t exist or because of the gender gap? Women’s invisibility translates into women being less than one in five of the communication experts shaping our world and less than one in ten of its leaders. 

Women’s status in PR and concrete ways to achieve greater parity in education and practice has become the conversation. According to a new report from the Institute for Public Relations and KPMG, while women now account for more than three out of four workers in the PR industry, only about 20% of the top leadership positions are occupied by women. 

Women in PR: Gender Equality and Gap in Public Relations looks at some of the reasons why the male-female leadership gap persists in the PR industry and suggests a few strategies for overcoming it.

The study gathered both male and female employees in mid-level and senior-level positions to find out how gender affects access to the C-suite as well as the ways in which it impacts the overall work experience.

That split extends to the differing perceptions as regards how men and women view the systemic barriers women face as they move up through the ranks. Many of the men surveyed said they did not think there were any such systemic barriers. Women, on the other hand,  cited several, including work-life fit, sexism and unconscious bias.

When it comes to how the industry should work to address the imbalance, several key factors came up:

First off, stressing that gender equality needs to be seen as an issue that affects all employees—not just women. Secondly, addressing gender pay disparity is also very important. Some respondents noted that consistently reviewing organization-wide compensation would go a long way toward addressing that problem.

Most important is the power of good leadership. From the poll taken, many said that having mentors and sponsors can make the path to the C-suite far more manageable for female workers. We believe that women will truly rise to the top of their profession as experts in the PR industry when the inequalities and disparities cease to exist. #BukiHQMediaForHer

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