Women in PR: Promoting Others, Not Themselves

Jennifer Lawrence recently posted about an all-too-familiar scenario for women in the workplace – being criticized or judged for speaking their mind or making a fair point. When men stand strong by their opinion, they are seen as being a strong leader, but women? Women are seen as being bossy, abrasive, or worse still, a bitch. This falls into a larger issue of women at work, who are consistently seen as inferior to their male counterparts, and have to carefully craft what they want say, in order to avoid being seen as too aggressive or overly apologetic. Whether it’s being paid less, being used solely for their looks (a DLC staffer at a previous job was brought to a trade show simply because the two male attendees wanted a “woman for people to look at on the show floor”), or being passed up for a promotion because of their gender, it’s clear that we’re way behind on gender equality in the workplace.

Women in PR can certainly relate to this unfortunate trend. PR pros are constantly dealing with a wide variety of people, whether it’s clients, reporters, conference organizers, or even co-workers. A big part of the job is balancing what people want to hear and standing strong by our opinions and recommendations. We are being paid to analyze situations and make the best call based on our expertise and experience, and shouldn’t be expected to stand down because someone, especially a male, doesn’t agree.

Speaking of being paid – although PR is dominated by women (73%), on average, males hold a whopping 80% of upper management positions in the industry. Average annual salaries further demonstrate the inequality in our field; men in PR have an average salary of $93,494, while women report only $66,467. Studies across all industries show one of the reasons behind pay discrepancy is women have more trouble negotiating higher salaries, asking for an average of $7,000 less than male counterparts according to one experiment. Why is this? Once again, women worry about how they will be perceived if they stand strong during negotiations. And with good reason, as research shows both male and female managers are less likely to want to work with women who negotiate during a job interview.

The reasons behind why women are expected to act in different manners than men have been engrained in our society for far too long – girls play with dolls and shouldn’t get too dirty. Women should be people pleasers and be careful not to offend. However, long gone are the days where women are supposed to be docile and compliant to sexist expectations, and I’m excited to be a part of an agency that is actively fighting these unrealistic stereotypes.