Visionaries such as Mike Paul and Kim Hunter are to be congratulated for their efforts in making public relations a more diverse field.
But, while we’re making great strides in diversity, we’re going in the reverse direction in addressing an equally perplexing problem: the near total lack of young men entering the public relations profession.
PR Daily News recently published an article authored by Alexis Morgan, a senior at Penn State University majoring in public relations and broadcast journalism. Ms. Morgan was inspired to write her piece after noticing there was only one guy in her entire PR class (note: having lectured at countless colleges and universities, I can confirm what Alexis observed. It’s rare to see more than one male student in any college PR class).
Curious as to why there were so few men, Ms. Morgan asked two of her professors. Ann Major, a former PR pro turned professor, attributed the seismic decline in male PR students to the rising number of women enrolling in colleges nationally. “Because more women are attending college,” Major told Morgan, “the number— and percentage of PR students increases.” To which I respond, ‘Puh-lese!’
Another PSU professor, Steve Manuel, told Alexis the PR field is less intriguing to men than other fields. “PR is a more conservative field, while advertising is more relaxed.” Yeah, right. And Neil Armstrong never walked on the moon.
Manuel also posited this gem of an insight, “Women are seen as more sensitive, more approachable, and are better listeners than men.” To which I respond, “Complete rubbish!” I can introduce Professor Manuel to any number of women PR executives who are beyond blunt, completely unapproachable and hard-wired not to listen to anything one says. His remarks are nothing less than reverse discrimination bias.
But, I digress. Ms. Morgan’s professors are either in complete denial or completely oblivious to the real causes so few young men enter the PR profession today. They include, but are not limited to:
- Hollywood’s constant portrayal of PR as little more than an event and party planning support function populated by bubble-headed blonds.
- The PR industry’s constant celebration of the rise of women to senior ranks on both the agency and corporate side (while focusing less and less on real male role models from Generation X).
- The dearth of PR industry spokespeople willing to address a politically incorrect subject.
I see the latter cohort as the real culprit. By ignoring the problem, we’re alienating 50 percent of our recruiting base. That’s both amazing and disturbing.
If leadership of The Arthur W. Page Society, the PRSA and The Council of PR Firms were less concerned about ‘earning a seat at the table’ today and more focused on building a balanced profession in the future, we’d see some meaningful education programs being put in place. These efforts would be widespread, aimed at high school boys and would shine the spotlight on the great careers being carved out by the few young men who do populate our ranks today.
Instead, as their forefathers did when race and gender discrimination ran amok in the 1960s and ‘70’s, today’s industry leaders are turning a blind eye on a trend that will one day soon result in an industry that is 90 percent female. And, what’s wrong with that you ask? Easy. If we don’t represent the increasingly diverse population our public and private sector clients are trying to reach, how can we possibly create a strategic communications solution?
You wouldn’t hire an old white man to publicize a fashion accessory for teenaged girls, would you? Well, marketers won’t hire all-female teams to market razor blades to blue-collar men either. In fact, I predict you’ll see more and more clients turn to more diverse professions such as advertising and branding in the future simply because they’re more balance from a race and gender standpoint.
It’s high time our trade groups stepped up to the plate and addressed the elephant in the room. If they don’t, that elephant will be 90 percent pink in a decade or less.