How Gender Roles Affect the Women of Public Relations

By, Roland Cailles

As a public relations person, I have the pleasure of working with some of the most talented and creative women in the professional world. My industry, known for its fast-paced lifestyle and feminine-friendly working environment, is filled with women. And yet, though women out number men at most agencies, it’s an industry still dominated by men. The old-school network, just as it is in the advertising world, still exists in PR.

Big agencies like Edelman, Golin-Harris, and Burson-Marstellar, get their names from the men that founded them. That’s why I feel so privileged to have completed my first internship at a certified women-owned agency: Carolyn Grisko & Associates. The top four ranking women at the firm- the CEO Carolyn, the COO, and two of the VP’s- are all women; a rarity in the PR world.

Times are changing. It’s time women lead the way in the business world the same as men do. Consider these stats from the book The Guide to American Graduate Schools, by Harold R. Doughty:

•From 1995 to 2006, the number of women graduating with either a master’s or doctorate degree has increased 150 percent.

•In 2007, the number of doctorates awarded reached an all-time high of 55,300 with women earning almost 50 percent of those conferred.

•It’s projected that by 2016 women will represent 56 percent of all doctorates awarded.

These stats should serve as an indication – women have their eyes set on the highest levels of the working world.

A Study of Gender Roles in PR

A couple months ago, I participated in a study by Victoria Geyer, an associate professor and grad student at Hofstra University. She was doing research for a paper that asked the question, “Does gender play a role in the public relations industry?”

She theorized that most women chose PR as a major early on in their academic careers. Because most men came into PR from other disciplines, they had the business classes and backgrounds to help them excel at managing their own businesses. Particularly, men came into the PR industry armed with contract negotiation skills, a trait lacking in most PR women.

Victoria believes that the key for women in PR is to cultivate their business acumen. Women in PR are renowned for their communication skills, but where they sometimes fall short is in understanding how to run a business.

The Money Question

A teacher of mine who was a former associate vice president of media at Paramount Pictures, once gave me some of the best business advice I’ve ever received.

“Always ask the money question,” she told me. Where is the money coming from? Who’s paying for it? And why? She said she loved media over other aspects of marketing because they were in charge of the budget, and therefore, yielded much power.

I have the feeling my teachers statement applies across the board. When running a business, the money question is the most important one. Have an answer to that question at all times, and you’ll be thinking like the CEO’s of the world.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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