Ann Friedman’s recent piece in New York Magazine is causing quite the stir in our navel-gazing world of public relations.
Entitled, ‘Why do we treat PR like a Pink Ghetto,’ the piece tells us what we already know:
– The lower ranks of PR are completely dominated by young, white women.
– The media tends to portray these women as bubble-gum chewing, party planning air heads.
Friedman was kind enough to write a balanced piece on the subject and even admitted that PR people provide her with story ideas. Gasp. A reporter willing to go on record saying that PR IS providing a worthwhile service to journalism? What is the world coming to?
On the other hand, she repeats all the stereotypes, says 73 to 85 percent of ALL PR professionals are women and that, yes, she’s had more than her fair shares of phone calls from ditzy blond, gum-chewing types straight out of central casting.
I have my own views about the pinkification of PR, but first wanted to ask two members of Peppercomm’s distaff side to weigh-in. Here’s what they had to say:
– I’d like to think that the “Pink Ghetto” doesn’t really exist, but it certainly does in entertainment/pop culture. Kelly Cutrone is talented and, seems to be well-respected (I think she is a good friend of Harold Burson?). I had only seen a few episodes, but I think Cutrone’s show on Bravo didn’t last because it seems as though only men can get away with having that Type-A demanding personality and succeed (i.e. Chef Gordon Ramsay). This goes back to basic gender stereotyping—girls are supposed to be sweet and nurturing, men are the breadwinners and are tough by nature.
– Make Chef Ramsay a woman and I guarantee his show wouldn’t last, unless the personality was softened a bit. You need a certain personality to make it in this industry and it may not be one that is best reflected on television for good entertainment (so you either have ditzy women or tough men). When there are talented and smart PR folks portrayed fictionally, they are usually portrayed by men. I’m thinking of the characters on Netflix’s House of Cards, the movie Wag the Dog, etc. Overall, PR needs its own publicist, but we need those smart, great female publicists to stand out in the spotlight a bit more to debunk the gender stereotypes of the industry.
– Robin Kassner, CEO of Haute PR is one of the reasons why the perception of the Pink Ghetto exists in reality. Here’s just a little sampling of when she went on Bravo’s ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’.
– Women come cheaper. I’ll never forget my former male boss’ explosive reaction when I complained about a paltry raise in the face of superior performance: “Christ, XXXXX, you make big bucks for a woman!”
– Women are “nice.” They are bred to be courteous, kind and caring. “Dialing and smiling” is part of most women’s psychological DNA.
I’m glad Friedman wrote her piece because, frankly, our trade publications won’t touch the incendiary subject with a 10-foot-pole. Why do I say incendiary? Because while it’s politically correct to say PR’s upper ranks are dominated by far too many middle-aged white guys like me, it is oh-so politically incorrect to write anything disparaging about women, or the progress of women in attaining substantive jobs in PR.
I’m all for equal rights and equal pay. But, in the same way too many middle-aged white guys project a retro, out-of-touch image to the larger business world, so, too, do too many young white females.
And, frankly, our industry has done an abysmal job of recruiting young men of any color, people of color and foreign-born nationals.
As a result, in the not-too-distant future PR will be far more than merely a pink ghetto. It’ll be a white, pink metropolis that will be superseded by competitive fields such as advertising that ARE taking steps towards building a work force that reflects our changing population.
Until then, like, um, I have some reporters to like, send blast e-mails to and, oh yeah, a party that’s happening downtown that we, um, like, were hired to coordinate and what not. Gotta go. Text me, OK?