The communications profession has seen major changes through the years. Since the age of Bernays to today, technological advancements as well as societal developments such as the female vote have shaped how we engage with the public.
Working in an industry strongly influenced by perception and reputation management should insinuate that we ourselves practice the values and ideas we communicate. However, the reality is that even in a people-focused profession, there is a wide pay-gap between genders.
Why does this matter? Let us explain.
The industry's gender distribution
In a Digiday piece, Barbara Bates – CEO of Silicon Valley PR agency Eastwick – recounted that out of more than 1,000 attendees of PR Week"s annual awards show some years ago, only 200 were men. Yet, they all represented senior leadership within major agencies.
While the gender distribution among communication specialists seems to have levelled to a near-even split across senior roles, the overall working population within the industry is female. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations' (CIPR) 'State of the Profession' points to the fact that while mid-level managerial roles are made up of more than 70 per cent women, there's been a rapid fall in equal leadership opportunities.
Despite the CIPR's findings that the number of women in communications has increased, there is clear evidence of an employment ceiling – with senior level gender distribution remaining much the same to previous years.
Equal pay, an illusion?
Having established that while the ideal 50-50 split of leadership roles is not yet attained, are remuneration packages more favorable? Unfortunately not.
PRWeek's 2016 Salary Survey shows that a disappointing chasm continues between men and women, with the former earning an average of $125,000 compared to the $80,000 of females.
When speaking to Digiday, Anne Green, president and CEO of PR firm CooperKatz & Company speaks of the prevailing challenges women face, in particular when wanting to have both a career and family.
"I think companies should show everyone by example not just by policy that you can choose your own life and you can lead," Green said.
She also suggested that the status quo has to, inevitably, change as women rise into leadership positions both at agencies and in-house. This most likely will see the best talent demand the pay they deserve.
As communication specialists, we need to point out the areas in urgent need of improvement of organisations, including our own. Therefore, it's time to be proactive and stand up for equality within our own profession.