Why we have to be aware of gender in PR practices
These days there are a lot of debates and tensions around the feminist agenda for public relations. Studies show that there is a pay-gap in this particular industry between men and woman. This example of inequality calls for research to examine the underlying processes in the PR field that influence position opportunities, roles, the pay-gap and discrimination. When these underlying processes are clearer, PR professionals can find a way to change these processes and eventually make sure that inequalities are less of a major thing. The strange thing is, as you can see in the figure, apparently women are overrepresented in PR practices.
The main problem within the PR sector is gender stereotyping. This has developed over the years and, still, is playing a big role (see this study). In another study that examined the historical discourses of gender, it appears that during the 1950s there was a general idea that woman had special intrinsic personal qualities such as hospitality, empathy and listening skills, that suited them for PR work. If you look at the next statement, you’ll see that nowadays these thoughts still blaze in the minds of woman:
“I think empathy’s really key one, and the combination of having a PR background and being a woman is a killer combination.”
This example shows that woman still think the same as 50 years ago and relates to the positioning theory that is mentioned in a study in which woman reflect on feminism in PR.
Positioning theory and the dominant coalition
Positioning theory focuses on the phenomenon of one’s position in terms of “what is relative to others, who constructs it and is it accepted or not?” The rights and duties that are associated with taking up a position is imposed by what is known as the local moral order. In a lot of organizations the dominant coalition (= local moral order) decides whether something is desirable. This dominant coalition is always in power and still structures the PR field of today. As you can see in the example about the 1950s, the rights and duties of PR professionals already have been established for a long time and there has to change something to overcome this gender stereotyping. So, are you still wondering why so many woman work in the PR field? The stereotypes are clearly deeply rooted into women’s minds…
How to overcome gender stereotyping in PR practices?
First of all, inequalities should be a part of PR education and should include research of feminist perspectives. Power also plays a big role and definitely has to be investigated more deeply. Secondly, in the study of how gender influences everyday practice in PR, the researchers give multiple examples on how to deal with stereotyping, participate in power relations and how they can “talk back” to the dominant coalition. This implies that women have to talk back to disrupt the gendered discourses that dominate the PR field.
If you want to know more about gender stereotyping, click here.
About the author:
Jeanne is a Corporate Communication student, living in Utrecht and is 22 years old. Specialized in PR & crisis communication. Currently working in the event management sector and has a huge interest in differences between males and females.