Few thoughts on Gender inequality and PR

Gender inequality persists in the modern world despite social and economic transformations and concerted movements to uphold women’s rights. The reasons could be many – biological differences, cultural indoctrination, or social conditioning. But I believe, gender divide is a by-product of a patriarchal society that feeds the male ego by subjugating women.

In last few years thankfully, we have started hearing conversations and debates on equality in pay and growth opportunities. The most awarded communication campaign in 2018 was Fearless Girl. I have used this female-empowerment campaign in my training programmes, and each time, I get goosebumps when I talk about how the bronze statue of a girl standing upright opposite a bull. It has become a symbol of hope and assertion. But what made it so powerful?

The place and the audience they wanted to reach is Wall Street. Do you remember seeing any movie or reading a book over the years on Wall street that projects a woman. The answer is a No and hence the power of this bronze Statue.

Does it mean there are no women working on Wall Street? Of course not. This is a sector that has such inequality and needs to consistently continue conversations.

Does gender inequality exist in India? Of course, it does. India, over the years has been ruled by many invaders. The leaders couldn’t defend themselves from foreign rulers and the muscle power was retained by dominating the women and massaging their egos. This has created what is one of the worst patriarchal societies. However, we may be way ahead compared to some superpowers who till date can’t fathom a woman as head of state.

However, forgive me for wondering if gender inequality exists in the PR fraternity in India. And the fact is: the PR community in India has been dominated by women. This is not a recent phenomenon. The PR business in India has always tilted in favour of women.

When I joined this profession 21 years ago, I saw a young woman leader, barely 26 years of age, single-handedly manage a branch office of a large PR consultancy. The only sector where it was normal and possible is PR. This is one of the reasons for many like me to be inspired to join this profession.

Let us not forget the legend of Prema Sagar. Up until 1997, Prema’s firm which was five years old had only women leaders as region heads. I urge all who jump on the gender inequality bandwagon to read her story – the institution she built and the number of women leaders that have emerged from her firm are far too many.

When I was the HR head of a leading communication consultancy, we never hired or gave increments based on gender. A candidate’s skill and work were the only prerequisites. I can confidently say that gender bias does not exist in consultancies. And if there is a gap in corporates, it is not because of gender, but the role of communications vis-à-vis marketing. Thus, what we need to do is elevate the reputation of PR in the C-suite

I agree the number of women in the boardroom is significantly less. But is it because of discrimination or are we – women in general – not competitive enough? I would cite my example: after my son was born, my three-month maternity leave kept increasing to many months. I would like to put on record (as over the years I have heard that I was pressured by family to take a break) that it was entirely my choice to take on less work. Did I have a choice? Yes. I did. And the proof is I am married to a man who gave me a birth certificate with my maiden name in my son’ name as a gift to us when my son was born. The decision to take it easy was entirely mine as I did not want to miss out being with my son. Was my husband ready to swap that role with me? The answer is yes.

Furthermore, the firm I was working with, at that time was ready to provide all the facilities, including work from home to the option of becoming a consultant, but I was not ready for a full-time job.  When I finally returned to work, I was given the option of working from home four days a week – a facility not extended to any male professional in that company. So which gender should talk about inequality and less privileges?

There is more than one case in recent times where a woman leader, who was about to deliver a child, was elevated to the most coveted position in the firm. I am sure the firm knew that there would be maternity leave and then a year where the child would need more attention. Did that stop the firm from promoting someone who deserved that position?

I find it ridiculous when we blindly follow the global narrative on gender inequality of PR industry.  We are communicators and who else but us would know that messaging must be backed by research and evidence.

Kindly look around before blindly following the narrative set by other sectors where this is a huge issue.

There are many qualified communication experts who have been denied promotion to the role of head of communications as they are men. Sadly, many times less qualified women have bagged senior roles because of their gender. Is it the right precedence that we are setting?

Please note – The thoughts are entirely based on my professional experience of 22 years in the public relations field. This includes five years as the HR Head of a well-known PR consultancy. I am a learner and if I am missing something, please tell me – but make sure your argument is backed by research and data. Remember there will always be one-off cases. As they say, there will always be a few bad fish in the pond.

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

Hina Issar Huria
Hina has almost two decades of experience in public relations across Corporate & Brand Reputation and Employee Relations. In addition to client servicing, she has deep experience in Human Resource Management, Leadership Development and Marketing.

Hina is currently a freelance PR professional and has been working with various consultancies delivering training modules focused on campaign development, HR management and knowledge management. She is also associated with Fulcrum Awards for the last two years as the Awards Director.

Prior to this she has worked with leading firms like Genesis Burson-Marsteller and Avian Media.

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