“While women make up about 70% of the PR workforce, they only hold about 30% of the top positions in the industry.”
This is a quote really haunts me as my graduation date creeps closer and closer. I look around my CAP classes and notice that they are mostly women, look around PRSSA meetings and see mostly women…yet most of the PR Pros and leaders I interview for PR Hangover are men. As I planned out my podcast content calendar for this semester, I made a point to make sure I tried to interview as many women as I could, especially for my march episodes, since March is Women’s Month.
There are many reasons that contribute to the “why” of the quote above. However, the root cause of all of the reasons is institutional sexism. This refers to the selectively unjustified negative behavior against women or men as members of a social category. People’s minds are imbedded with stereotypes and misnomers from a young age, specifically having to do with marginalized groups. These get reinforced by institutions like schools as they grow up and then bring to the workplace.
The more I researched about women in this industry, the more my heart sank. Why don’t we discuss these gaps in gender among the industry? Why aren’t we teaching students how to fight back against this? Of course there are good things too, but the numbers speak for themselves.
I look around at my fellow PRSSA e-board members, however, and see all women. I can’t imagine that any of these women in these powerful, leadership positions won’t go on to be CEO’s and presidents some day. I look at our faculty advisor, Adrienne Wallace, and am inspired by having a powerful and insightful female mentor. Women populate this major, yet the knowledge that 30% of top positions in the industry are women lingers in the back of my mind.
My freshman year I declared my major to be Advertising and Public Relations and my minor to be Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. I wanted to combine these worlds to create something better and probably a lot bigger than me. Sexism happens all around us, like at PRSSA National Conference, and this is something I want to utilize my knowledge and understanding of these issues to help combat as well as educate others to recognize and react to it.
So, celebrate this month of March by keeping an eye out for some women-centered events like the APR Speaker Series coming up about throwing “Miss Manners” under the bus, or by simply noticing and thanking the powerful and wonderful women around you. These events are informative and necessary for all genders as they evoke learning and growth imperative for us as students as we are soon to be professionals.
Kelly is a Senior studying Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Women Gender and Sexualities Studies. She is the Director of Social Media and host of PR Hangover— PRSSA’s podcast. Kelly is also the Student Project Manager overseeing a team of students working on a communications campaign for Amway. She loves to travel and try new foods and coffee shops around big cities. Find her on LinkedIn or on social media @KayDarcc