In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8), the PR Council (PRC) launched Close the Say Gap. Through this program, the PRC and its Member agencies have set a goal to collectively train at least 5,000 women as spokespersons for conferences, events and media interviews.
According to Kim Sample, PRC President, “The Gender Pay Gap has widespread awareness, but little attention has been paid to one of the underlying causes: The Say Gap. Women, especially women of color, have low visibility as experts in business and public life.”
An analysis by Talkwalker conducted specifically for Close the Say Gap, reveals that women were quoted in 32.9% of U.S. media coverage during the last six months while men were featured in 67.1%. “The public relations industry—as the gatekeepers and promoters of subject matter experts (SMEs)—can play a huge role in correcting this,” Sample says.
The issue is not a lack of expert women across every industry and sector: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold almost 52% of all management and professional-level jobs, and the National Association of Women Business Owners documents 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. Further, 64% of new women-owned businesses were started by women of color last year.
“When women aren’t being seen as the experts we are, we don’t win the better jobs nor command the higher salaries. And worse, still, is the situation for young women and girls not yet in the workforce because you can’t be what you can’t see,” according to Heather Kernahan, PRC Board Member and Hotwire North America CEO. Hotwire intends to train 2,020 women this year in celebration of Hotwire’s 20th anniversary, according to Kernahan.
The PRC’s Member agencies will champion the initiative in a number of ways:
- Talk about the program internally to identify ways to take action.
- Help spread awareness of the Say Gap and its impact on women and girls by sharing the problem and solutions on social media channels.
- Provide at least one free media and presentation training to equip women who are business and community leaders to be ready as spokespersons at events and with media. Newly trained spokespeople will be registered and promoted on Qwoted (a free expert platform designed to help journalists identify SMEs to write better stories faster).
- Lead by example and identify one new female spokesperson within the agency and get her on stage and in media at least two times this year.
- Take a pledge to only participate in panels with equal gender representation—no “manels.”
- Work with clients on other solutions, including auditing client organizations to ensure they have diverse SMEs, training the identified women and developing thought-leadership campaigns for new female SMEs.
“We have been excited to involve the industry in solving this problem since Claire Mason, CEO of strategic communications consultancy Man Bites Dog first shared her thought leadership on the problem last year,” Sample said. “IWD is the perfect U.S. launchpad for our agencies to create measurable change.”
Mason added, “Increasing the visibility of women and diverse experts in business and in public life is critical to building a diverse and inclusive future. We are delighted that the PR Council is taking action to Close the Say Gap.”