Build a robust leadership pipeline for women in PR

Not too long ago, I interviewed for a senior position at a PR consultancy. While the job description and perks sounded great, one thing that alarmed me was their question on my marital status. Being a strong advocate of female co-workers, how come someone’s marital status or family planning decide a candidate’s career path. Although the corporate world made ample efforts to ensure gender diversity right from the bottom to the top level, there is a lot of ground to cover. While the PR community is probably one of the most accepting and inclusive of women generally, we are falling short when it comes to the presence of women in leadership roles than at the executive level.

I can imagine a lot of women losing excellent opportunities just for typical reasons like marriage or baby on the cards’ and other unconscious biases. Studies show that men hold the vast majority of CEO positions in the top PR consultancies, with some estimates topping nearly 80 percent. In a business that is predominantly women, this makes the gap between men and women especially pronounced.

In recent years, the Companies Act 2014 mandated a certain class of companies to hire at least one women to improve gender diversity in the boardroom. However, companies still wait until the last minute to make a move or hire someone from the family/promoters’ family to comply with the act. Women comprise 49% of Asia’s population and 36% of the gross domestic product (GDP), but just 12% of board seats, according to BofAML. Undeniably, men hold a lot more positions of power in PR than their female counterparts. 

At many occasions, PR is labelled, or you can say stereotyped as a profession for women. Of course, there is no denying that women are naturally multi-taskers, good communicators and manager. That doesn’t generalise the fact that PR is solely for women workforce. The has been further glorified by a famous series ‘Sex and the city’ where Samantha Jones is seen promoting hot new clubs and enjoying glamourous networking sessions. 

I believe the culture of encouraging women leaders have to be done by women. Successful women leaders are perceived as role models for ambitious women. Rightly said, “Like attracts like’’. In the last few years, we have witnessed women taking up key roles at various PR organisations. As we progress towards a more inclusive work environment, the dominance of women at the managerial and leadership roles in underrepresented. Undoubtedly, women have excelled in almost all sectors. However, society still holds the perceptions that exhibit biasedness and sexism. Those perceptions are engraved back in the roots of our culture, be it about the clothes or any occupation. Generalisation of women behaviour or choices has become a passé conversation. However, there is a subconscious biasedness that still exists.

The question remains unanswered why women need to occupy more space in the boardroom. Ultimately, the dire need is to promote diversity of the workforce, diversity of ethnicity and diversity of thinking. The principle of IDEAL (Identifying, Developing, Empowering, Advocating and Linking) should be applicable at workplaces when we talk about an inclusive work environment for both genders. 

Put women in control and be involved at the strategic level

Back in times, TV shows have portrayed the advertising and marketing field as a male-dominated world in which the Don Drapers of the world run the show. However, there is a softer side to the communications world and women being natural communicators, listeners and managers are empathetic and have the ability to forge a more nurturing alliance with the client. That can go a long way in retaining any client. Moreover, women naturally have skills like attention to details and measured thinking that prove to be beneficial for any business. Also, those women who took work obligations seriously were labelled as ‘irresponsible’ or ‘bad mothers’ for not fully committing to family responsibilities. Hence, rendering support to women’s lives is even more crucial to blend different capacities and particularities of sexes. 

Women’s presence becomes normal in the boardrooms 

Generally, women don’t run with the pack and absent from networking events like after-hours drinking, golf or sports, etc. Besides providing them with a good judgement of male advocate, early socialisation can provide them with a comfort zone to forge strategic alliances with co-workers and ensure equal participation from both genders. Women entry to leadership level becomes more uncommon in the absence of early socialisation. Women need to establish a relationship with senior figures (stakeholders) and gain entry into their formal and informal networks that can provide women candidates with further visibility and recognition necessary for their growth. Men need to equally support inside and outside the boardroom and be vocal when you see biased behaviour take place as people learn from you in those moments.

Lastly, Women For Women

Why not encourage women to inspire other women to pursue a prolonged career even after settling down. Enabling female PR pros by giving them a voice and ensuring that they are part of crucial speaking opportunities at strategic meetings and forums. Sharing success stories and career paths is a great way to inspire other women. We, as women also have to speak up for one another and make sure we’re in the right companies that foster an environment to do so. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Jyoti Sharma
With over six years of experience, Jyoti Sharma is a seasoned PR professional. With her problem-solving approach, she manages client-agency relationships, media relations, strategize brand campaigns, knowledge sharing, and capitalise on the untapped areas for B2B IT/Tech brands. In the past, Jyoti has worked as a PR Consultant for reputed companies like Text100 (Now Archetype), Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Soulmedia, amongst others.

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