Unlike journalism, which is a roughly even split between the sexes, public relations is ruled by women — until the executive level. Then it’s a boys club. So why are we so drawn to PR?
Over at the Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes that women account for more than half of publicists in America and 59 percent of all publicity managers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you include the advertising world, the people shaping your media messages are 60 percent female, compared to 47 percent of the overall workforce, according to data compiled for The Atlantic by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Other estimates say the female percentage is closer to 73, or even 85 percent.
But we don’t seem to be ruling the head offices, which isn’t such great news.
“It's all women out there,” said Sarahjane Sacchetti, who handles marketing for Secret. “And the two people running it are dudes. That's the only thing that's puzzled me and angered me for a long time.”
On the other hand, PR is a lucrative business and every growing company needs to get their name out there, which means the ladies are cashing in.
While female news reporters make $43,326, on average, (to men’s $51,578), female PR “specialists,” the lower-level job in the BLS categorization, make $55,705, while their male counterparts make $71,449.
The average wage for a woman working full-time is $37,232, according to the department of labor. And while cub publicists may begin doing ridiculous things, like talking people into the benefit of Frosted Flakes while dressed as Tony the Tiger — this happened to Deirdre Latour — bigger doors do open. Now, Latour is the senior director of external communications for General Electric, where she is trusted with international business deals and swaying entire governments to employ her company.
These days more and more college students are aiming for communications careers by majoring in communications, journalism, English, advertising/PR, business, and mass media, according to the American Community Survey headed by Philip N. Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland College Park, at the rate of 47 percent of women and 35 percent of men. Why? Women are often raised to be "more social."
“Studies have shown that women tend to collaborate more and prefer to work on teams, whereas men usually do better in competitive environments and prefer to fly solo. That male approach works well for journalists, while having a bit of a 'people-pleaser' gene probably attracts and/or makes it easier for women to excel in the PR environment,” said Jennifer Hellickson, director of marketing at SweatGuru in Portland, Oregon.
Some of the publicists Khazan spoke to considered journalism at one time but decided working behind the scenes and not fighting for headlines was a better fit. But even though they make a good salary and pull most of the strings behind what pop culture consumes in this country, it's not all the life of Samantha Jones. PR is still a tough gig.
"It's a bit of a thankless endeavor—when PR is good, everyone is off and planning for the next thing; but when PR is bad, it's all anyone can talk about," Hellickson said.