Women in Public Relations

     

The proposed project aims to explore women in public relations in the European context. The project presents a continuation of previous Women in European Public Relations projects supported by EUPRERA. In that, the project team will investigate:

  1. The position of women in public relations, focusing not just on businesses but also non-governmental sectors and politics.
  2. The challenges and opportunities for women in public relations.
  3. Bloke-ification as a process, and its relevance for public relations in Europe.
  4. Women’s preferences in regards to work environment and senior management structure, e.g. would women prefer to work for women, differences between female and male bosses, etc.
  5. Is there a European trend in a decline of women joining the profession? If so, why?

This project will therefore debate specific issues that women face in public relations across Europe, and the research aims to help in informing further research and research projects.

Goals of the project
  • To compare and contrast the position of women in Europe, by conducting comparative analysis among European countries
  • To show the issues that women practitioners in Europe are concerned with and possible inequalities of women practitioners
  • To discuss the specific issues that affect the work of women public relations practitioners within each country.
Outcomes
Project leader

Martina Topic
Leeds Beckett University, UK
M.Topic@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Can EUPRERA members still join the project?

The project should ideally have members from more than three European countries to allow in-depth country comparisons and allow portrayal of the situation on women in public relations in Europe. Those participating should have an interest in women’s studies and qualitative research, as it is expected that interviews will be conducted in participating countries.

One member will be needed to compile a literature review and identify trends in public relations research on women. This can then be written up as a report that provides an overview of the situation in Europe, and this report could be linked with wider PR trends and the way industry changes. The latter could be done in participation with other members from the network.

Participating team members could be responsible for analysing more than one country, depending on the language competencies. A team of approximately 8 to 10 members would suffice, and data from this number of countries (along with potentially extra ones, due to language competencies) would provide good data on PR trends in regards to the position of women, as well as lead to good outputs (reports, journal publications, monograph).

More about this topic

Women in public relations is a topic that has been drawing attention since at least 1985 when the Velvet Ghetto study argued that women see themselves as technical staff, thus expecting to get paid less paid than men. The research on the position of women in public relations has continued since the Velvet Ghetto study, and some of the issues that are often recognised include the glass ceiling, pay gap, lack of mentorship opportunities and stereotyped expectations of leadership style, where leadership is usually seen as a masculine trait[1]. While the research on women in public relations has originated in the US, nowadays this research has also been conducted in other countries, such as the UK and Australia. Nevertheless, the European Communication Monitor project[2] has been monitoring the position of women in public relations in Europe, in its annual research on public relations trends and future prospects. All data shows that the position of women has improved in comparison to how it was at the time of the Velvet Ghetto study; however, there are still issues with a pay gap, glass ceiling and mentoring. Nevertheless, a research paper analysing data continually collected by the European Communications Monitor established that when one issue gets resolved, at least to an extent, new issues emerge.[3]

The research on journalism has so far recognised the issue of bloke-ification, or the situation in which women whose appearance and communication style appear more masculine than what is usually perceived as feminine, progress faster in their careers. Nevertheless, journalism culture is perceived as masculine to an extent that when women progress to senior positions they “become so bloke-ified by the macho water in which they swim that many younger women looking up don’t see them as role models for the kind of women they might want to become”[4]. This question is of relevance for public relations given the fact research shows that even though public relations is a female profession (i.e. majority of workforce being female, 56% according to CIPR[5]) there are still more men in senior managerial positions. Thus, we may ask whether ‘blokish’ women progress and younger women cannot look up to them, and think that is the kind of women they would want to become, which then favours men for progressing despite men being less represented in the profession?

Another question that has not been explored in current public relations scholarship is the question of public relations professionals in politics and NGOs. Who are the practitioners who work in the field, and how does their career progression work, i.e. who gets promoted and under which circumstances? Finally, the CIPR (UK) survey reports a decline of women in the UK joining the PR industry and this decline has been steady since 2013. Thus, there has been a drop from previous figures of 63% women and now 56% are making up the workforce.[6]


[1] R. Tench, A. Moreno, M. Topić (2017). Male and Female Communication, Leadership Styles and the Position of Women in Public Relations. Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture 8(2-3), 231-248.
[2] http://www.communicationmonitor.eu/
[3] R. Tench & M. Topić (2017). One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? An Analysis of Public Relations Practitioners’ Views on the Position of Women in the PR Industry (2009-2015). Current Politics and Economics of Europe 28(1), 83-105.
[4] E. Mills (2014). Why do the best jobs go to men? British Journalism Review 25(3) (2014): 1-5 (online), 2.; M. Gallagher (2002). Women, Media and Democratic Society: In Pursuit of Rights and Freedoms. United Nations: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). Expert Group Meeting on ‘Participation and access of women to the media, and the impact of media on, and its use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women’ (2002). Accessed March 22 2017.
[5] https://newsroom.cipr.co.uk/state-of-the-profession-charts-robust-growth-but-reveals-evidence-of-pr-skills-gap/
[6] ibid

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