While doing some research for a paper I’m writing (it seems like I do a lot of both lately) I came across an interesting article that brings together the ideas of gender and social media. The authors, Piet Verhoeven and Noelle Aarts, put forth an interesting idea: social media might help solve the issue of the gender gap in PR! Finally, something more or less tangible that we, men and women, can understand and relate to. Whether you’re a he or a she, read on for some insights that could make or break your career.
The basic idea is that people who communicate online are social, involved, dedicated and media-smart and seek intimacy when engaging on social media sites. These coincide exactly with what have traditionally been considered female communication traits, which in turn respond to Grunig’s Excellence model of communication, based on the ideas of mutual benefit, cooperation, equality and learning.
Both men and women value what social media can bring to PR in terms of monitoring communications and targeting specific audiences, among many others. But it seems that women feel more comfortable using social media than men do and that they are becoming more experienced and skilled in their use, using it to initiate dialogue, establish relationships with target audiences and use the insights gained to create new, innovative campaigns.
In a time when social media is so valued in the field of PR, this could give women the advantage they need to start closing the gender gap and get rid of the “PR girl” stereotype. In turn, this could mean women might be taken more seriously as professionals and allow them to perceive themselves as valued and influential.
Only time will tell if “PR girls” will finally gain respect and be referred to as “PR women”. Social media may or may not be the solution to the gender divide in PR. But just in case it is, I’m learning all I can about it!