by Mike Mulvihill
Today is International Woman’s Day. As a father of a most wonderful daughter, future husband to an exquisite soulmate and son to the most important woman in my life – literally and figuratively – I would say we all have much reason to celebrate and appreciate women.
Having been in the public relations profession all my life, I also have had an opportunity to work in a field that is predominately populated by women. In case you didn’t know, about 70 percent of PR practitioners are women. This female overrepresentation isn’t necessarily a good thing, because we should be more representative of the gender balance in society as a whole. But, it is somewhat understandable when you consider than at entry levels in PR, the skew is more like 80 percent female, trimming back to just below 60 percent at the oldest age bracket.
One blog post, which I will not dignify with a link, postulates that the most common reason put forward for the ‘feminization of PR’ is that the industry is simply perceived as being feminine – which I then assume means that it is avoided by men, especially at the entry level. The blog further rationalizes that this feminization can be explained by the fact the industry is often perceived as being glamorous and a ‘soft’ career option.
What poppycock! The real reason the PR industry is dominated by women is because women are just flat out better at what it takes to be successful in the field. Consider, please, my observations from more than 30 years in the client side and agency business.
- In general, women are better writers. Writing is still the common denominator skill in PR. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best writers I know are guys. But I also have raised a boy and a girl, and I have seen many a newly minted PR grad’s portfolio. It’s not even a close contest. Women are usually much more adept at writing and have been building off better grades in English, Creative Writing, etc., for years before I even get to see their material.
- Women are better communicators. In addition to written communications, women in general have a greater command and control of language then men. They are generally better at listening to what the client is saying, empathizing with the situation and identifying what needs to be done.
- And women are more prevalent communicators. Especially in the world of social media, women tend to be the more prevalent gender on major social media sites usually in about a 60-40 majority. So? Well, on many topics of personal and social importance, women are more comfortable talking to other women. As marketers and communicators, we would be remiss not to consider the needs and preferences of the target audience.
- Women are better at creating and cultivating relationships. Dare I say even nurturing relationships? Sure, guys have their own relationship building skills, especially when it relates to male-bonding activities. But I have to say that women do a better job of creating long-lasting trusted relationship with clients. Look at your client list. Pull out all the clients that have been with you 10 or more years and think about who at the agency has been the go-to day-in, day-out contact. I think you’ll find that the list will be predominately populated by female names.
- Women are better planners and organizers. Come on, would you let a guy organize the most important events in your personal life? Think about it, most of those events had women at the helm and things turned out pretty well didn’t they? Professionally, those same skills come into play every day in public relations where logistics and planning make the difference between flawless execution and something that doesn’t quite measure up to client expectations. I don’t have any scientific data, but I can tell you from years of experience, the best planners I have ever met (whether they were engineers, businessmen or marketers/communicators by trade) are predominately women.
Like most industries, PR is underrepresented by women in the C-suite. According to the Holmes Report, only one of the top 10 firms in its global ranking has a woman CEO and only six of the top 20 have women as either global chair or CEO. I would be remiss if I did not point out that at our firm, we have a woman co-chair (Patrice Tanaka) and our Board of Managers is a 50-50 male-female split.
Ironically, the same Holmes Report research showed that when respondents were asked whether they agreed that their firm “provides equal opportunities regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation,” the average score (on a scale of one to 10) was 9.33. Women gave their firms only very slightly lower marks (9.31 for women; 9.39 for men). So the answers are not clear cut to say the least.
Hopefully, the industry will find ways to make entry level jobs more appealing to male candidates, as well as underrepresented minorities, while we speed up the progress on elevating more women into the C-suite.
In the meantime, please tip your hat, raise your glass and give it up for the wonderful women who make this business a pleasure to show up for every day. Sláinte!