Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Gender and life balance

The overwhelming majority of women in PR, makes one wonder why so many women are attracted to this field. Throughout my research I have found quite a few reasons, but the one that called my attention the most is the fact that PR is seen as a female-intensive industry, meaning industries more likely to hire women because of the flexibility they offer.

If a majority of women enter public relations with the view of having a flexible work, do they really encounter a friendly work environment for that matter? And what are the impacts it has for women and the profession?

It seems like those issues have to be addressed form many angles. First, a social model moving from traditional to progressive – or from male breadwinner and female carer to dual earner and dual carer - is rather an appealing view towards change. Otherwise we have the individualization heading to a society without families, backed up with the fact that a great number of successful executives remain childless, according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

Many women avoid the presence of children in the workplace – even on photos or conversations – as it can be reason for the discrepancies between men and women towards hiring, salaries and promotions.

The integration of work, family and community life provides a new vision of the profession, looking at men and women as human beings struggling to achieve balance rather than mere communication professionals. To offer flexibility and work arrangements compatible with practioners life style constitutes great advantages for employers including reputation capital and higher average stock returns. However it is not only up to employers to provide changes in the public relations field. Societal systems that promote gender bias are of great influence on the issue. It is possible for professionals in public relations to be well-paid, influential and happy, taking the example of PR field in Quebec, Canada where the majority of women are pleased with their position. Policies and social differences have weight on the satisfaction of those professionals who enjoy more generous parental leave than in most countries.

Women in public relations can enjoy flexibility parallel to successful work upon certain changes in social context which allows women and men to have a more meaningful professional and personal life.

Here are some sources for more reading on the subject: 

Feminist Phase Analysis in PR: Where have we been? Where do we need to be? Journal of PR Research 2006

Gender Discrepancy in a Gendered Profession. Jounal of PR Research 2002

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