College of Charleston Executive-in-Residence Tom Martin hits the nail on the head with his call to action on the PR industry’s growing gender imbalance.
Like Tom, I lecture at many college campuses. I also speak at PRSSA conferences and the Council of PR Firms’ most excellent Summer Internfests. Like Tom, I’ve noticed the increasing gender imbalance (he cites a current PRSA member survey revealing that 89 percent are women!). And, like Tom, I agree the lack of men is troubling, since we need to reflect the society in which we live.
Unlike Tom, though, I’m less than sanguine about the success of any education campaign aimed at attracting more young men to our ranks. Why? Because I think peer pressure is the real reason keeping the average college guy from expressing interest in public relations. What red-blooded guy wants to be seen as a "party girl?"
Most high school and college students see PR as a mix of "cocktail parties," "fashion shows" and all things "glam." The reason why is obvious: popular culture has squarely positioned PR jobs that way. "Sex and the city," "The Hills" and hundreds of lesser known TV shows and movies almost invariably portray PR professionals as
gum-cracking, hair-twirling young ladies. But, as those of us in the profession know, Hollywood is grossly distorting the truth. Most distaff members of the PR industry work on everything from crisis communications and new product introductions to high-level executive coaching and strategic counseling. The Lizzie Grubmans are few and far between.
But until, and unless, we can lobby Hollywood to alter its misleading stereotyping, PR will continue to be totally dominated by young women. And, that lack of gender diversity spells big trouble in the long-term, just as it would for any industry that is too heavily skewed towards a particular race or gender.