Ladies of PR: Burn your bras!

Tyra Banks provs that bra burning is actually fun (2008).

Tyra Banks is joined by friends in a good old fashioned bra-burning in (2008).

OK, I don’t mean this literally (anyone who buys them knows that good bras are expensive and hard to find), but keep reading and you’ll get what I mean.
I recently did some research about the gender gap in PR and I was very surprised (shocked, actually) when I read what some academics have to say about the issue. To give you a bit of background information, women represent 70% of the PR workforce, but continue earn just 75 percent of what men earn and still have difficulties reaching management level positions. Considering the proportion of women versus men in the field, I wonder… What is going on?When reading up on the subject, it’s obvious that for one, the “PR girl” stereotype persists. Women are still seen as beautiful and glamorous creatures who socialize with celebrities and spend most of their time attending parties. Portrayals of women like Samantha Jones (“Sex in the City“) didn’t help to change this perception of female practitioners and what’s more, female academics such as Grunig, Toth and Hon (all of whom are women, by the way) inadvertently promote the stereotype as well when praising a manager who bakes desserts for potential male clients in order to obtain their business.

Added to this, women are still the primary caregivers for their children and therefore are obligated to balance their personal and work lives in a way that most men are not, as revealed by a U.N. report that shows that women in developed nations are still spending at least twice as much time on housework and child care as men. What’s disturbing is that no one seems to question the fairness of this situation, even when considering that women are willing to leave their companies or even the industry if denied flexible provisions upon returning from maternity leave.

This could ultimately limit the number of years that women work in PR and affect the number of experienced female mentors who can inspire women practitioners. In turn, this could contribute to them doubting their own worth and, according to some experts, developing a lack of professional ambition.

So what can women do to improve their chances of earning higher salaries and becoming managers? Should they, as some suggest, adopt an androgynous managerial style? The answer is no. Larissa Gruning for one says that women’s “inclusivity, respect, caring, cooperation, equity, self-determination and interconnection could enhance the ethical and effective practice of PR” and that they’re especially valued by employees as a result of their nurturing nature. Froehlic even remarks that “women’s communications skills are what make them especially suited for PR and that in fact this type of “metamorphosis” is usually judged negatively and can even be a career killer”.

Having quoted all of these academics, you might laugh at this reference, but Glamour Magazine recently mentioned that women are generally less assertive than men when the time comes to ask for a raise or a promotion. I’m going to go out on a limb and am going to say that perhaps part of the solution is being manlier not while working, but when asking for that raise or that promotion. It might be time to take to heart some magazine advice: Stick up for yourself, keep your chin up, and don’t give up.

And keep an old bra handy, just in case.

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