Women dominate PR, while men still hold the higher-level positions

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Hailey talks about public relations being a female-dominated profession.

Photo: archives.gov

Walking into my first public relations course at the University of Maryland, I immediately thought “Wow, where are all the boys?” It was a small class with fewer than 20 people, and only two of them were guys. It struck me as odd.  Like most small classes, we started with awkward ice breakers and everyone had to share their reason for choosing to major in public relations. The two guys both said they wanted to do sports PR.

This trend continued throughout my college career. Although the sports thing turned out to only be a coincidence, my classes were pretty much female-filled.  Some had no men, others had only one, and some had no more than a few.  I never quite figured out why this was the case.

According to the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), women in PR now outnumber men by 60:40, a statistic that has changed drastically over time. In 1987, the ratio was quite the opposite at 20:80. Part of this is probably due to the fact that more women are going to college and working full time, but it’s still pretty interesting to see how much the industry has changed over time.

Additionally, the Public Relations Society of America reports that 73 percent of membership is female. Although this doesn’t accurately reflect the percentages seen in the work force today, it’s a pretty surprising statistic.

There are several smaller PR agencies where women hold the top positions, including zcomm whose CEO, Risë Birnbaum, is a woman. And although the PRSA stats show that there are more women in the public relations industry, men still hold a many of the top positions at the larger agencies:

  • Ray Kotcher – Senior Partner and CEO, Ketchum
  • Miles Young – CEO, Ogilvy & Mather
  • Richard Edelman – President and CEO, Edelman
  • Mark Penn – Worldwide President and CEO, Burson-Marsteller/President, Penn Schoen Berland

Over the years women have become more active in the business world, so I won’t be surprised if/when more CEO positions are held by women.  But, as Bob Dylan would say, “times they are a changin’ and with more women in college, congress and surgical scrubs, there’s nothing to prevent them from reaching the top of the PR ladder.

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