About 9 out of 10 people who go into communications or PR are female. Some might think that’s due to the stereotype that public relations is a sexy and fashionable field; and that the industry is all about attending events, socializing, drinking, getting free stuff and having fun. But that stereotype is just that — a stereotype.
PR is a demanding field; one where its professionals are on call practically 24/7, as they not only market their clients, but do a lot of problem-solving by putting good spins on bad press. As such, public relations is all about good communication, and that’s just one reason – of many – why women are drawn to PR as a career.
How the Entertainment World Portrays Public Relations
With the way movies and TV shows depict public relations, you’d think the job was all just one big party. Just take a look at the way PR is portrayed in popular shows like “Sex and the City,” “Mad Men,” and “Entourage.” It’s depicted as a fast-paced and exciting career, one that involves a ton of perks, like office’s full of samples, lots of cocktails, and the perfect lipstick.
Of course, stereotypes exist for a reason and there truly are a lot of perks, including samples of products. But, it’s most definitely not what it’s all about or the only things the job entails. In other words, Public Relations is about much more than going to events and getting free swag.
In fact, some women in the PR world think that focusing on those aspects – ones that make them look like superficial fashionistas and event planners – can diminish what public relations is really about: solving problems and creating a successful marketing and communication strategy for their clients.
Why Women Fare So Well in PR
PR is also about planning, writing — and even at times — the law. But at its foundation, this career field is about relationship building; working with clients, as well as journalists; and, in the process, creating trust. As such, the people who fare best in this industry tend to be great listeners as well as communicators, and females tend to have both those traits. Working with clients also often does have a social component to it, but in this case, the ability to be social and act extroverted (even when you feel like you’re an introvert) is a professional skill, one that should be any PR pro’s resume.
Trends and understanding those trends are also key to being successful in this field. That’s why it’s no surprise really why you’ll see women working in PR in the fields of cosmetics, jewelry, fashion, and more. It can be easy to be passionate about a career when you’re working with the things you love and you’re getting paid to stay up to date on the latest and greatest there is in the fashion world. Trends are important because as a PR professional, you can take a trend and find ways for your brand or company to capitalize on that trend.
PR pros also tend to be wonderful at problem solving. They can look at a situation — such as bad press — and figure out ways to come out looking better to the public eye. Yes, problem solving is in the purview of both males and females, but a 2007 study showed that the two genders approach problems very differently. While men see solving a problem as a way to demonstrate how intelligent they are, women see it as a chance to grow more connected. In other words, solving a problem for women is a chance to strengthen a relationship and as already established, that’s key in PR.
Last but certainly not least, for decades now, PR has been largely dominated by women, and therefore women feel comfortable and accepted when they join the career field. This is no small thing. People tend to gravitate toward careers where they feel they will be easily welcomed — and in turn — a place where they feel they can belong.
PR’s Glass Ceiling
Despite the sheer number of women in the public relations industry, there’s quite a disparity when it comes to which gender heads the managerial positions. Studies have shown that men are more often promoted to Director of Communications, while women tend to stay in middle management positions. Despite this gender problem, more women than ever before are entering the field and beginning to make a name for themselves in their own ways.
Some break off and start their own agencies; others find and represent huge clients. What do all these impressive ladies have in common? They work hard, they understand how PR works – and that’s not all fun and games — and they create strong relationships based on trust and communication with all sorts of people, not just their clients.