Feminism, as my colleague Katy Lyons put it, can be a nerve-wrecker. In fact, it outright scares me, as does every movement whose thinking and actions are somewhat rigid or extreme. Granted, to prove your point extreme action is necessary from time to time.
If you watch even just one episode of Mad Men, it’s clear that since the 1960’s, women in the workplace have come a long way. This is especially true in the world of communication.
While women represent around 50% of the global workforce, numbers are significantly higher in communication and PR. PR Daily reported in 2011 that women make up anywhere from 70 percent to 85 percent of our industry. At LEWIS PR 66 per cent, or two out of three, of our nearly 500 employees are women.
So why do women thrive in PR?
Without wanting to try and find a proven reason for the majority of women in the industry, some often heard speculations are:
- Women are better than men at relationship building, one of the most important skills in our industry
- Women are drawn to the assumed sexiness of PR as portrayed in series like Sex and the City, while men are driven by the money and power in other industries
- PR provides the opportunity for career-minded women to have high-powered jobs, while still balancing family life – at least to some degree.
Far more important than the reasons why there are so many women in PR is the question if this feminine touch is actually beneficial to the industry?
The answer would be ‘no’. It might very well be true that women are more empathetic and therefore better equipped to deal with situations requiring a high degree of emotional intelligence. But PR as a profession would be better off with a greater degree of gender balance. And not only with a better gender balance but also a better representation of different cultures. This it is true not just for public relations but also for male-dominated professions such as finance and engineering.
It makes sound business sense to select from the entire gene pool and from the entire age and race pool for that matter. Men and women of different ages and different cultural backgrounds look at issues and business problems differently.
Since creativity is a by-product of opposing ideas, frames and perspectives a group comprising young and old, men and women, from different races and educational backgrounds, will lead to most creativity.
Diversification is what we should aim for. And the PR industry is in a good position to start changing the business world into a world that embraces everyone. Why? Because it is an industry dominated by women, which means there is a bigger focus on more feminine traits like relationship building and networking, sharing and cooperating and consulting.
It is about time the PR industry eradicates the male vs. female polarization and starts working together across all age, nationality or gender barriers.