A glass ceiling: in PR?

2 Apr

Yesterday I read through an undergraduate dissertation on whether a glass ceiling exists preventing women from reaching the top in UK PR consultancies. Today I received a questionnaire from a University of Westminster masters student (Reena Ruhomah) asking similar questions.

Both students appear to start from the assumption that there is a glass ceiling, though my undergraduate student’s primary research tended to disprove the thesis.

Taking a historical view, public relations in the UK has been something of a boys’ club (as Jacquie L’Etang argues in her recent book). But PR students and junior PR practioners today are overwhelmingly female. Is it simply a matter of time before women are more fully represented at the top, or is there some form of glass ceiling in operation? Why do bosses still tend to be male and why (to throw in a separate question) are most PR bloggers in the list on the right male?

7 Responses to “A glass ceiling: in PR?”

  1. Niall Cook 02/04/2005 at 9:23 am #

    With a female CEO and women outnumbering men on the UK Board, I’d say there’s certainly no numerical evidence to support the glass ceiling hypothesis here at Hill & Knowlton.
    But as this is PR, is it a perception issue?

  2. Reena Ruhomah 02/04/2005 at 1:51 pm #

    It might not be prevalent at Hill & Knowlton but why do both scholars and PR practitioners alike keep debating whether there is an invisible glass ceiling that impedes women’s ascent into the upper echelons of management? And why are so many women starting their own businesses? It might well be that this is an attempt to escape discrimination that prevents them from obtaining top management positions within the public relations profession!

  3. The Azia.info blog 03/04/2005 at 12:29 pm #

    University mention

    Occasionaly when you’re surfing the web you see that students you’re studying with are mentioned in various locations. Most recently here about women in PR and a possible glass ceiling.

  4. Greg Smith 04/04/2005 at 1:17 am #

    I received the same message from Reena, asking me to comment on aspects of women’s participation in PR. I am undertaking a PhD on the Predominance of women in PR (http://members.westnet.com.au/gsmith/study). I can’t see a glass ceiling. In fact, from preliminary observations women are making it to the top in certain areas; mostly government and in their own consultancies. The glass ceiling is all about gender discriminiation, pay discrepancies, etc. I’m more concerned with the reasons why women are predominent, and what this means for the industry. Contact me if you’re interested.

  5. Liz Fiala 06/04/2005 at 3:36 pm #

    From my undergraduate research at Arkansas State University in the USA:
    Looking back on my undergraduate research from Arkansas State University, I am preparing to further this research and create a thesis for my graduate program with DePaul University.
    Considering the research to date on gender issues in public relations, gender bias seems to have become an issue in PR since many women perceive a glass ceiling. While some in the industry dismiss this as just a myth, others say that perception is reality.
    Larissa A. Grunig, Elizabeth Lance Toth, and Linda Childers Hon have addressed the issue of the glass ceiling in their 2001 book, “Women in Public Relations.” The glass ceiling presents itself as gender bias against women through the belief by some that women are in some way inadequately able to handle many of the positions in diverse professions. Grunig, Toth, and Hons’ study addresses cases of gender bias in many forms ranging from sexual harassment to pay-rate differences between males and females.
    A semi-unique situation occurs for women in PR because a majority of the profession are women.
    Approximately 66 percent of the industry is female along with 80 percent of students in college, according to figures published by Grunig in 2001. These statistics show that gender bias should not be present if a majority of the profession is female, yet some women struggle with this issue often enough for it to become a social problem.
    Previous research that has found the existence of a glass ceiling is usually generalized to the majority of professions in the business world, though similarities in specific occupations can be identified. This study addresses the question, “How do women in the public relations industry handle the problems caused by a glass ceiling.”
    In 1999, Farmer and Waugh stated a number of striking statistics in their study about gender differences and the role women play in public relations. In 1992, while women made up approximately 66 percent of the profession, only 37 percent held top managerial and counseling positions. The 37 percent of women also commanded smaller salaries compared to their male counter-parts. LeAna S. Bui stated in a 1999 Public Relations Quarterly journal article that, as of May 1998, women accounted for more than 64 percent of the PRSA total membership.
    With research and a two-paged survey instrument in hand, I approached the Chicagoland PRSA chapter asking for their participation. After being given their support, I administered my survey during their October 2002 meeting and had a total of 19 female members participate.
    This study first had to attain evidence of the existence of a glass ceiling prior to examining how women dealt with the issue of gender bias. Seventy-nine percent of the women in this study perceived a glass ceiling in today’s workplace. Through a series of additional questions, I found 68 percent felt that they personally had not contributed towards the women’s movement for equality, while the remaining 26 percent of women indicated they had contributed to breaking the glass ceiling.
    The latter said they felt they had accomplished this by hiring and promoting young women, networking with women, supporting professional development, joining national or professional organizations and by writing to congressional delegations on issues affecting women.
    None of the women who had experienced or witnessed gender bias in the workplace approached their upper management to discuss this issue. In addition, the two most commonly stated reasons that the participants felt women were held back from taking a more predominant or leading role in the industry were male senior executives and the women’s continuing role as primary caregiver.
    While it seems that women want to break through the glass ceiling, they find ways to do it without approaching the most important people in their company, the management team. Continued research will be conducted through my graduate research thesis during the next year to further understand on a national level why differences appear on how women in the PR industry deal with the problem of gender bias and the glass ceiling.
    I am currently working on my Master’s at the University of Illinois at Springfield and look forward to moving on for my PhD or a DPA. If you would like to contact me for my full research, let me know, I would be more than happy to share it with you.

  6. Morgan McLintic 08/04/2005 at 3:15 am #

    As one of the male PR bloggers on the right, here are my perceptions:
    1. In general, women make far better PR advisors than men. They tend to be more detailed, more considered, better managers, more deadline-oriented and more consistent. 73% of the senior team at my agency, LEWIS, are women. My colleague, Kath Pooley, leads our UK office and is PRWEEK’s Young Communicator of the Year. Fact is, there isn’t a glass ceiling in modern agencies. Just try hiring men – there aren’t that many top flight male PROs (at least in my sector tech PR), and at a junior level female candidates tend to be much more mature compared to their male counterparts.
    2. Most PR bloggers are male since most bloggers in total are male, if we’re to believe the Pew Institute’s figures. So it’s a reflection of the whole. We can only hope that more women will contribute their views and share their counsel. Perhaps they’re too busy showing up men and getting on with the real work? (Prosecution rests mi’lud)

  7. digital dissertations 06/01/2009 at 10:43 am #

    Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!

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