The balancing act- PR- the place where women are on par with men

As women try to find more balance in every sphere of their lives, how is PR industry faring?

The Public Relations (PR) industry has been one of the key sectors which have continuously pushed the envelope for greater inclusivity of women. According to a study conducted by Bureau of
labour statics, the PR industry in the US comprises of almost 61.3% of women “specialists” which is a far cry from the business and financial sectors, where women make up 43.6 percent of the workforce.

Every year, International Women’s day hopes to honor the women for their contribution to society and the world. None has made such an impact as the theme for this year- striving to achieve #BalanceforBetter.

We all have seen how a colleague was denied a good pay hike because she was soon to go on maternity leave, or two employees joining at the same level had varied pay structure because one of them was a female. As we applaud the little victories of these heroes, we also need to put an end to the bias that exists against women only based on their gender.

Do you think a female tennis player works any lesser on her game than a male player? Why then, should there be a difference in the prize money? Or closer home, take the example of Indian Women’s cricket team. They are playing shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts in the same playgrounds under similar conditions, but the media coverage they get is maybe 2 or 4 columns while a full page is devoted to the men in blue.

Discrimination comes in many forms, and as the overt ways of discrimination are no more possible, the society has resorted to subtle means of conveying the message. A girl from the time she is born is expected to make way for her brother, whether he is younger or older to her. Women are allotted a “quota” in entrance exams at reputed colleges, which essentially means that they are “presumed” to not succeed on their merit and abilities. 

We have made women to vote, to opt for same courses as their male counterparts, to apply for same jobs, but then we create glass ceilings and boundaries and nominate them as “fairer, weaker sex” based on our patriarchal notions.

As the world enters the exciting phase of grassroots activism and global action in this regard, the call to build a gender-balanced world –  #BalanceforBetter resonates like a war-cry where equal opportunities also mean equal growth.

Public relations: A place where balance is nurtured and celebrated

Gender balance is an essential tool for the smooth functioning of society, communities and organizations. A balanced and diverse workforce also leads to increased business performance and higher retention of the employees. Acknowledging its benefits, today, more and more companies in several sectors are creating policies to create a more gender inclusive environment at their respective organizations.

The Public Relations industry (PR), has been one of the key sectors which have continuously pushed the envelope for greater inclusivity of women. According to a study conducted by Bureau of labour statics, the PR industry in the US comprises of almost 61.3% of women “specialists” which is a far cry from the business and financial sectors, where women make up 43.6 percent of the workforce.

Why is PR becoming a safe workplace haven for women?

There are several reasons why women are choosing PR as a career option, but several reasons such as people driven atmosphere, skill development, challenging roles and positions, relationship building and expanding lines of communications in which women have historically excelled have assisted in garnering women’s interest in this field.  

To be an expert PR specialist, PR professionals are not only required to be good listeners and excellent team players but also have to be strong advocates and believers of their client’s work. These qualities are often inherent in many women which makes them emphatic communicators and efficient managers. The Bureau of labour statics data further highlights that women run 30% of all PR agencies and 59% of all PR managers are female showcasing how over the decades the industry has helped in empowering women in taking up leadership roles.

The ground rules for achieving a better balance:

PR firms can further increase women participation and can create more opportunities for them by adopting a few measures –

  • Increasing flexibility: Maintaining a balance between their careers and life often becomes a huge challenge for women as several responsibilities like eldercare and childcare often fall on their shoulders. Many women prefer opting for workplaces which offer more flexibility.  Hence by providing benefits like a paid maternity leave, four-day working week and telecommuting can further assist the PR agencies in not only retaining the right talent but also in attracting one. For example, by not trying to schedule a meeting after 7:30 P.M. can further increase the ease for women.
  • Acknowledging the hard work and celebrating success: Often shy and sensitive, women have been found to less likely self-promote themselves and their work. Initiatives such as sharing the news of a new client win by a woman employee, a successful campaign which was headed by a woman employee and promoting her contribution to a company on the various social media handles of the organization can be a huge confidence booster for the women employees and can encourage them to be loyal to their company.

Gender-inclusive policies like these will further promote gender equity and growth in the industry.

This year on the occasion of International Women’s Day, let’s take steps to create more opportunities for women in the workplace and work towards building a gender-neutral ecosystem.

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.

Looking for a renaissance in the PR industry? Embrace diversification and be inclusive

You may have come across specially-abled stewards at KFC or gone through some of the inspiring headlines in newspapers and social media about an individual representing the LGBT community appointed as the principal of a college in West Bengal, India a couple of years back. Reputed companies like Accenture, IBM, and Infosys sometimes get featured for hiring human resources on wheelchair or open-heartedly accommodating employees with specific disabilities. While India goes gaga over sporadic examples of a diversified and inclusive workforce across the employment sector, it is hard to find a similar culture in India’s Public Relations (PR) industry.

Although ideally, the PR industry should be more open to all identities as they build up the edifice of mass communication and connecting with people of all kinds, colours, races, genders, abilities and more, unfortunately, the concept of openness is not that impressive in the country. Encountering with a PR professional belonging to the third gender or someone who has a hearing disability or cannot speak is still a far-fetched dream. Interestingly, not just India, the landscape of a diversified and inclusive eco-structure is not much different in the US or Europe as well. According to a report, African Americans and Hispanic Americans constitute only 10% of all PR professionals. Thus, the global PR industry, as well as that in India, has a long way to go in terms of diversification and inclusion, although a remarkable shift  is happening  in the field of including female workforce over the last decade.

Unlike earlier days, diversification and inclusion are no more all about including women in the workforce. With all the noise around feminism and women empowerment in the last couple of years, the PR industry along with the other sectors have voluminously grown in terms of including women. In fact, for India, women have been the face of the Public Relations Industry. According to the top female PR professionals in the country with 15 to 25 years of experience in the field including Shefali Khanna, partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Astrum – Reputation Advisory, Shravani Dang, Group Vice President, Corporate Communications at Avantha Group, Vasundhara Mudgil, Head of Communications at Spotify, India, Stuti Jalan, Founder and Managing Director of Crosshairs and more, PR is an inherent skill among women as women are better multitaskers, more creative and understanding that make up the three most vital pillars of PR. The PR industry may no more be gender specific or biased, but it is lagging much behind in terms of embracing a diversified and inclusive intellectual capital structure compared to the corporates.

Experts say that a diversified and inclusive work culture enhances the accessibility of Public relations (PR). It creates an open and credible workplace which is must for a profession representing the views of multiple stakeholders. In case you are into this profession, always remember your client will choose you based on how open you are in expanding your client tile by promoting diverse talent. Also, the more inclusive you are, the better you will be able to provide multiple viewpoints during a crisis that your client faces and thereby save your client’s reputation. Furthermore, India is a multicultural and pluralistic nation and you ought to be inclusive and diversified if you want to understand your customers better. Similarly, your customers will have deeper trust on you if you are a PR brand that can realise their needs and expectations from an array of backgrounds including social, political, economic and cultural topographies. This will definitely boost your client connections and help you provide insights into trends.

Enough has been spoken about why it is crucial for the PR industry to be diversified an inclusive. However, not many talks about how that can be done. It is not rocket science, say experts. All you need to do is tweak your hiring policies and make some cool administrative changes. These may include inclusion of paid period leaves for women employees, pooling in women from underprivileged, low income backgrounds, hiring those who are wheelchair bound or may have to use a hearing aid to hear and sign languages to interact, making the workplace design friendly for the specially-abled and driving in those from the LGBT community based on their talent and skills and not on their gender preferences.

Being a PR is not that easy and being a diversified and inclusive PR is even tougher. However, once you can brace up with the openness, your public relations skill will touch the sky and bring about a dynamic makeover in the existing PR industry. Let’s hope for the day when India will produce the best of PR professionals based on their talents to connect, skills to innovate and not based on their gender, colour, caste, religion, ability and so on.

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