As a college intern at WTNH-TV News Channel 8, I was given sound advice from one of the station’s most respected veteran news anchors whose daughters shared the stage with me growing up. Knowing that I am used to dressing to play different characters for dance recitals and musicals, she warned me not to sell myself to get ahead in my career. She was talking about standards in the business as they relate to women’s wardrobes. Her words resonate with me now more than ever.
A recent article published in The Boston Globe delivered a shared perspective from local female broadcasters that TV stations want female personalities to dress “tighter, smaller, shorter and more revealing.” TV stations countered with sentiments of professionalism. This got me thinking about the public relations industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is nearly two-thirds female. Is PR sexist?
While fictional characters, like Samantha Jones from “Sex & the City” and Shauna Roberts from “Entourage,” put the pressure on us gals to wear designer everything and drink top shelf cocktails at parties, this lifestyle should not be a priority in public relations. To all my rising female publicists out there, it’s time to kick off your stilettos, let down your hair and focus on the real issues at hand.
Although there are currently more women than men in PR, women report less job satisfaction. A recent survey conducted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and Heyman Associates revealed that success for women in the industry is challenging due to three inequalities: opportunity, pay and respect. And, it starts at the top as the majority of senior positions are held by men.
Of the 1,200 PR executives surveyed for job satisfaction, more men (62.1 percent) were engaged, meaning they felt they were given opportunities and feeling part of the team, than women (52.9 percent). In the non-top-leader group, less than half of women were engaged (46.4 percent), and nearly one in ten (9.7 percent) was actively disengaged. Top concerns amongst women reported were feelings of being ignored, undervalued and excluded with regard to sharing opinions, opportunities for growth and major decision-making.
In June, PRWeek held its second annual Hall of Femme honorees and Champions of PR during which a panel of female and male leaders in the industry encouraged attendees to advocate for equal pay and equal opportunities. According to PRWeek’s annual Salary Survey, there is an average $36,000 deficit in women’s salaries. Despite this figure, many female publicists focus on doing the job and working with teams, rather than prioritizing their own individual advancement like their male counterparts.
At Teak, an all women office, we pride ourselves on the culture we have built that enables us to work as our authentic selves. Not only do we work as a team, but we value and play up each other’s individual strengths. If we want to tackle or learn something new, we are encouraged to do so. If we want to take the lead on a project or if we need help completing a task, we aren’t afraid to ask for what we want. Yes, we will dress up for galas and suit up for executive meetings. However, on a daily basis we value working with integrity, honesty, creativity and gumption over appearances. We want to be approachable and work as partners with our clients, those who are served by our clients and the media. And, we want to continue growing and developing within our careers.
At the end of the day, sexism and inequality can be found in almost any profession. The only way to create change is to advocate for ourselves one publicist, one team, one public relations firm at a time. Let’s work together to set a new PR standard.