Picture this: It is a post-pandemic world where stadium concerts are actually a thing and your best friend miraculously scored tickets to a Beyoncé concert. The lights go dark and Queen B steps onto the stage to perform one of your favorite songs: “Run the World.” You sing along with Beyoncé to this girl power anthem as she asks the audience, “Who runs the world?” Instead of hearing the background singers and dancers emphatically respond to Beyoncé’s question with “girls,” the music stops suddenly, the dancers stumble through their choreography and the backup singers scratch their heads and say, “Actually only about 20% of girls are running the world.”
That would be crazy.
Unfortunately for women in public relations, this is reality. Brigham Young University communications researchers have been conducting research about women in public relations and found that approximately 75% of public relations practitioners are female but women in public relations only make up 20% of senior-level positions. Despite the challenges and setbacks that women in public relations face, there are things women can start doing today that will help them rise to the top of the industry.
Is it that bad?
There is no denying it, women are dominating public relations. Women hold around 59% of public relations management roles and 63% of public relations specialist positions, but they are missing from the higher levels of management within companies.
“You don’t see as many women in leadership,” says Pamela Brubaker, an associate professor of public relations in the School of Communications at Brigham Young University who has been one of the key researchers of the BYU study on women in public relations that will be published next year.
Brubaker has been conducting research about the lack of women in leadership positions within public relations and found that, “Men are more likely to tout themselves while women are less likely to do so … and are perceived as weaker leaders than their counterparts.”
Despite the heartbreaking statistics about the missing women in leadership roles, it does not mean that women have to stay where they are. There are ways that women can work toward advancement and challenge the status quo. Both Brubaker and Emily Spackman, a recent graduate from BYU in mass communications, agree on what women in public relations should do right now: Get a mentor.
“There is something about being a woman and seeing another woman in a leadership position and realizing, wow, that could be me,” says Brubaker.
Spackman also agrees that to succeed in public relations, “It really helps to find a good mentor.”
Become a leader.
In order for women to advance within public relations, they must stop selling themselves short. Brubaker’s research noted that, “Men will apply for a job if they have 60% of the job requirements while women who have 90% of the qualifications will wait.”
Women need to realize the impact they have on their own lives and the lives around them both professionally and personally.
“I would love to see women be more empowered to fulfill the roles that they have because they have confidence in themselves,” says Brubaker.
If women find a mentor in public relations and gain confidence in their abilities as public relations practitioners, they can become the future leaders of the industry. It is time for the women of public relations to prove Beyoncé right and run the world of communications.
Kailey Thompson is a junior at Brigham Young University studying public relations with a minor in English. She is a member of BYU’s student council and helps run student-focused social media campaigns. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in mass communications following graduation.