Marlena Braeu, 20 Jan. 2010
1) What has happened so far: The quantitative feminization of PR
Back in the 1960s, women formed only 10 per cent of the American PR field. Only 20 years later, in the mid-80s, this percentage had increased to 50 per cent. This phenomenon, called the “Gender Switch”, initialized the quantitative feminization of public relations (Dozier, 1988, p.8). In 1986 Mathews wrote: “A women`s place is no longer in the home. It seems to be in the communication department.” (Matthews, 1986, p.28). At the end of the 1990s, according to the US Department of Labor, two thirds of PR specialists were women (Grunig, Toth & Hon, 2001, p.5). At the same time, research has repeatedly shown that a strong vertical segmentation has taken place: men are more often working in the higher paid manager role, women work as PR technicians and therefore earn less money (Broom&Dozier,1986). “Gender predicts income. Women earn less than men in public relations, even when they re of equal education, professional experience, and tenure in their present position.” (Broom&Dozier, 1986, p.54). Cline et al. (1986) proved that women are earning at least 18,5 per cent less then men in PR - only determined by the variable sex. This study was followed by the glass ceiling study by Wright et al. (1991), which confirmed those findings. Instead of expounding the problems of this discrimination, people started to be worried about the reputation of PR in general: PR would turn into a career for women, a “velvet ghetto of affirmative action” and therefore lose prestige and credibility, what would ultimately result in lower salaries. The “velvet ghetto” would then turn into a “polyester ghetto” (Cline et al., 1986). American scholars even called for a male affirmative action to stop the sector from losing its status (Hunt&Thompson, 1987). 20 years later women still dominate the field of PR by far. But what are the current developments and to what extent have the fears of a “polyester ghetto” come true?
2) What is happening right now: Natural born communicators, good ol` boys networks and a feminist theory of PR.
So what happened to the perceived decline of status and credibility of PR? In “The Velvet Ghetto” study in 1985, 50 per cent of respondents stated they report directly to the CEO, in the IABC Profile 2002, it is only 35 per cent. In 1985, 80 percent said they always had direct access to senior management, in 2002, this Marlena Braeu, 20 Jan. 2010 percentage declined to 53 per cent (Taff, 2003, p.11). But although access to senior management has declined over the past 20 years, that does not necessarily have to be connected with PR´s status or prestige. In fact, there has been an increase of wages: “PR ranks higher in real wage growth than management consultants, a profession traditionally considered strategically orientated and dominated by men.” (Taff, 2003, p.11). So the concerns raised in the 1980s about the whole field of PR suffering from the feminization have not come true so far, but the salary gap between men and women, as well as the glass ceiling still exist.
It is a fact that women are pushed aside by men while climbing the job ladder. In education, women dominate the field by far: an estimated 80 per cent of public relations majors are female (Grunig et al., 2001, p.6). But as age and years of work experience increase, the percentage of women decreases. The main reason for this diminution can is probably the problematic connection of family and job. Similar to many other professions, women have problems with coming back to a job after having a baby and experience not being as “valued” anymore, especially when working set hours. This explanation is part of the structionalist perspective of discrimination. This model suggests explanations for gender disparities that lie in the structural demands of organizations and society (Aldoory&Toth, 2002, p.108). Many organizations still refuse to provide proper child care benefits or family leave policies. Another argument of this model is that men are taught from a young age to feel a sense of entitlement for moving up in an organization`s hierarchy, whereas women feel a lot more uncomfortable asking for promotions. “Men come into entry-level positions already socialized to act like managers, and therefore, will be promoted faster than women” (Aldoory&Toth, 2002, p.120). Even more, many organizations are still ruled by sex discriminations and sexism. Respondents of the surveys conducted by Grunig et al. (2001) and Aldoory&Toth (2002) talk about “good ol `boys networks” in organizations, where men in senior management support and promote younger men, but women are strategically excluded and run over. “It shuts them out at the management table as well as on the basketball court or on the golf course” (Grunig et al., 2001, p.293f). This has also an impact on networking amongst women.
- Quote paper
- Marlena Bräu (Author), 2010, Feminization in Public Relations, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/213048