It’s a great time to be in the PR industry – shaping public perception of key issues, political figures, and new products coming to market.  My role as co-president of WWPR has given me cause to think about female leaders in our industry – it’s clear in 2013 woman have made quite a mark, yet there is still plenty of room to push forward.

PRWEEK offers two strong barometers of our profession and the growth of powerful woman within their awards speaks volumes.  This year almost half of PRWEEK’s 50 Power List were women and more than half of their recent 40 under 40 honorees were women.

As many of us see firsthand, PR is an industry often dominated by women who are achieving results at all levels and taking on more and more leadership roles.  The rise of smart women in our field is an important and growing trend fueled by women in senior strategic business roles within PR companies and in the C-suite overseeing the PR function in-house.

It’s not just the role of women in PR changing – PR in the role of business is also shifting.  PR has increased visibility to become a strategic player at the corporate level for many large companies, often putting women at the management table.  Many women staff offices of PR agencies and many agencies even have women at the helm, but still at the holding company level men outnumber women by substantial proportions. So there is room at the top of the industry for positive growth for smart, hard-working women.

Let’s look at the numbers across the industry:

Nearly 80 percent of the PR industry is comprised of women, but four out of every five leadership positions are held by men as reported by Ragan PR Daily earlier this year.

It’s not just a lack of leadership roles, the money lags too – the median salary for women is $80,500 while the median salary for men is $125,000. The gap exists at every level according to Bloom, Gross & Associates Salary Survey.

The void of women in senior leadership is peculiar because the numbers show it’s a smart business move.  A recent Amex Open Forum study discovered that women-owned companies have been more successful, growing at nearly double the rate. As published in Time Magazine, a Catalyst study reported that companies with women in the majority of senior management roles had higher returns on equities—by more than a 1/3.

At my agency, Porter Novelli, we are lucky have a strong female leader in Karen van Bergen as well as a roster of strong women in all of our offices, notably a PRWEEK 40 Under 40 honoree, Loretta Markevics, and two additional female executives: Darlàn Monterisi and Sally Ward.

Real industry success will be marked by a time when men and women are equal in leadership at the agency and holding company level and when generating ROI with smart PR pros in place, regardless of gender, is the only topic of discussion.  Until then, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year from women in PR and 2014 is poised for continued growth from women-led agencies as well as strong teams across the sector empowering smart women to further results.