International Women’s Day 2019

Why is there still an imbalance of female PR leaders?

According to the 2018 PRCA Census, the PR and communications industry is 66% female overall, but the number of women at director level and above remains stubbornly low. At Cartwright, we are proud to buck the trend, so on International Women’s Day we asked our senior team to consider why this is the case.

Rachel Cullis Dorsett, director

Women in the boardroom is always the question – but what women do when they have children is often leave the corporate workplace in order to bring control and flexibility into their lives so they can actually have a relationship with their children and be a part of their growing lives

I’m sure the statistics on number of women start-ups will back this up.

More women in PR go freelance after having children. The ones who do come back into a corporate setting after having children often leave burned out – trying to do it all.

Women work really hard and set themselves high expectations – needing to prove to others and themselves that they can ‘do everything

It’s a big question – and hard to answer definitively but until the workplace starts to value women’s voices and contribution more, industries continue to lose thousands of women who take their valuable knowledge, skills and unique ways of working with them.

It’s a bummer!

Rose Hayes, account director

It’s surprising that women are still outnumbered at a senior level in our sector as it is female dominated. But, as the skill-set has had to widen to encompass SEO, social media content and content marketing, I feel like there has been more male interest in PR as a career.

There is definitely a wider issue in terms of how UK businesses are run – most companies offer flexible working hours but if you are a parent you still ultimately have to decide between the prioritisation of work or parenting – unless you are freelance.

I think we will, and I have heard that we are, seeing that many more senior PR people will go freelance rather than to director level – the demand for the work is there and it offers work-life balance.

Also, as creative people, you can do PR two days a week and run another business in another two or three days for example.

Mental health and wellbeing are also becoming more important within the world of business – I’ve heard that more senior people are now facing burn-out and deciding that they want to be at home as a parent.

This, of course, traditionally impacts women more than men.

Sarah Howells, account director

Women are not just underrepresented at board level in the PR and comms industry – it’s an issue affecting all sectors. I’d argue that men probably tend to benefit from more informal mentoring or inter-company networking which benefits their career progression.

The opportunities for men to take advantage of out-of-hours socialising with peers or managers are inevitably going to help build stronger relationships with those male managers who are promoting into leadership roles.

It’s much easier for those who don’t have the commitment of a school run or a nursery pick up.

I’d like to see more accountability from companies to develop, mentor and sponsor women.

I feel very lucky to work for a female-led company, we also have a strong line management structure and mentoring – which the whole team takes advantage of.

I think mentoring is key to developing an individual’s skill, shaping their confidence and helping them to develop leadership skills.

Emma Houghton, account director

I think, for now, it’s because millennials (like me!) don’t have the years of experience under their belts required to be on a board of directors yet… Up until recent years, the attitudes and pressures on men and women have not been equal.

Gender stereotyping and traditional ways of thinking have meant that the career aspirations and expectations on men have always been higher than on women – if a woman says she’s not interested in promotion; you’d probably think ‘understandable, she wants to focus on the kids, what a great mother’… a man says he’s not interested in the promotion, you’re probably thinking ‘how lazy, doesn’t he want to provide the best for his family?’

A lot needs to change in order to get things more balanced – but I think a good place to start would be the language we use and the assumptions we make.

For example, I can’t recall any of my male colleagues ever being referred to as ‘the PR boy’, yet I find myself and my female colleagues regularly referred to as; ‘the PR girls’, when ‘the PR team’ or ‘PR consultant’ would be a much better alternative.

Also, we need to try not to make assumptions on seniority based on gender… cue; the awkward moment that a client’s customer assumed the male work placement student was my boss…

By Liz Cartwright

Liz heads up the team and set up Cartwright Communications in 2006 after working as a journalist for more than 20 years on titles including the Nottingham Post and Daily Mail. Liz’s PR experience spans the property, professional services and public sectors and she has significant crisis communications and internal communications expertise.