I was surprised the Institute of PR's recent statement that the public relations world is now “dominated” by women and may be north of 70 percent female didn't draw more comment or analysis.
The same report noted that, as recently as 1987, males accounted for 80 percent of the PR workplace.
Neither percentage was, or is, healthy.
Lest I offend feminist readers, let me begin by applauding the significant strides made by PR women in the past two decades. That said, let me also push the alarm button.
Having too many old white men was bad for PR in 1987. And, having too many young white women is bad for PR now, and in the future. Here's why: our nation's demographics are undergoing a seismic shift. In many states, whites represent a minority while Asian and Hispanic populations are positively bursting at the seams.
At the same time, Hollywood has done a four-star job of depicting the average PR professional as a gum smacking, party planning, blonde hair curling young white girl. (“Um, like do you, like, think we have a chance of Gaga showing up at our Droopy Petals party tonight? It would be so, like, um, totally awesome, right?”)
The first scenario will limit our industry's ability to attract the best and brightest young men. The second scenario will limit our ability to attract the best and brightest people.
Advertising, digital, direct and other marketing disciplines don't suffer from the same disproportionate gender skews as PR. They've also undertaken a much more sophisticated job of attracting qualified minorities. Unless our industry attacks the diversity issue in a holistic way, we run the risk of losing significant business to more integrated, integrated marketing competitors.
Sadly, our industry trade groups and media seem to be overlooking this seismic challenge (kind of like Congress ignored the debt ceiling/budget balancing crisis until the 11th hour).
The PRSA is too caught up in flacking its useless APR credential while fighting a mutually embarrassing 'hacking' battle with Jack O'Dwyer. The other trade groups are laser focused on holding onto existing members while attracting new ones. And, the trade publications seem mired in covering news of the day and publishing hagiographic profiles of chief communications officers.
PR needs to do something about gender diversity before it becomes too late. The smartest initiative would be some sort of education program aimed at high school males. We need to convince Tom, Dick and Harry there's a career path for them right alongside Buffy, Lexi and Tiffany.
If we don't, PR may one day become SnookiNation.
Like Obama, I’m open to any and all suggestions, Matt. Bring it on.
I think you’re correct that there are more young women in PR — but I think it truly depends upon the industry. In entertainment, most definitely. But I think there’s probably a more balanced male/female ratio in financial services and healthcare PR.
I think you’re spot-on, Steve (and have been for some time on this issue I might add). The PR industry needs to do some serious PR work to correct what Hollywood has done. Despite the false representation, I know several young men who have taken internships at reputable firms over the past year only to become turned off by the gender dynamic the study highlights. This leads me to believe that the educational program you propose would not be effective as a standalone tactic, and opens the door to all sorts of controversial questions…