Women in PR: New study investigates long-term effects of gender bias in the industry

by | Apr 1, 2021 | Public Relations

Women dominate public relations—until you get to the boardroom, that is. This long-festering disconnect has plagued PR for decades, and new research from The Organization of Canadian Women in Public Relations and the Organization of American Women in Public Relations, with the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), offers new insights and analysis of the position of women in the public relations industry in Canada and the United States.

The research project aimed to establish whether organizational culture and the socialization process influenced women’s ability to progress in their careers. The research project examined three pre-determined groupings, synonymous with other EUPRERA projects across Croatia and England. The North American report examined the lived experiences of women in public relations; the office culture such as networking, interaction at work, and dress codes; and the socialization, leadership, and ability to see other senior women as role models.

Initial thematic analysis:

Women in PR: New study investigates long-term effects of gender bias in the industry

“This study marks an important step in our goal to investigate the long-term effects of gender bias towards women in public relations in the corporate workplace. Our objective from the very beginning was to learn how women have been affected to help organizations develop initiatives to create change. I want to thank all the women who contributed to this study for sharing their personal experiences. We will continue to work with our research partners around the world to shape the future of women in public relations,” explained Talia Beckett-Davis, Founder and CEO of Women in PR North America.

The second thematic analysis:

Women in PR: New study investigates long-term effects of gender bias in the industry

“Interviewing women across North America and hearing their stories proved to me what I already know: women are resilient, resourceful and, most of all, positive. Sharing the combined lived experiences of my colleagues in this North American report helps us understand each other’s challenges and build a way forward together,” said Natasha Netschay Davies, Chair of Women in PR North America.

“When interviewing participants for this research study, I recognized that there are many challenges in the PR industry that if approached correctly could be turned into opportunities. There are many women in intermediate to managerial positions and only a handful make it to the C-suite roles. Second, whereas diversity is visible to the naked eye, equity and inclusion are missing in the industry culture, which in turn demoralizes the experiences of many communicators and deters many from pursuing the career. I am optimistic as to what the future of PR will look like given the ongoing transformative conversations that continue to be had and the growing hunger for change,” said Alliancé Babunga, Research Assistant, Women in PR North America.

Chart comparing skills needed as a manager or employee:

Women in PR: New study investigates long-term effects of gender bias in the industry

“I authored the EUPRERA Women in PR project as I noticed a lack of scholarship on more structural issues that women face. A lot of work has been done looking into the glass ceiling and the pay gap, but we need to look deeper and analyse why this inequality happens. This is why the interviews for the project encompassed questions on the glass ceiling and the pay gap, but also the office culture and lived experiences, exploring issues such as social interactions in offices, banter, and also the early socialisation process and leadership styles. These questions helped in understanding why women struggle to achieve equality in organizations and opens a possibility for more tailored activism in improving their position in the industry,” stated Dr. Martina Topić.

“Following a thesis investigating the dissemination of political brand over Twitter, I was thrilled to use my academic skills to contribute to the EUPRERA project. As a woman newly entering the world of PR, it has been both frustrating and enlightening to hear the lived experiences of women in PR in North America. I am glad to help shine a light on our industry in the hope that we can make it better for the women who come after us,” stated Teela Clayton.

Download the full report here.

This research has also been published by Leeds Beckett University in the UK. The report was co-authored by Teela Clayton, Talia Beckett Davis, Natasha Netschay Davies, Alliancé Babunga, and edited by Martina Topić.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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