The Role of Public Relations in Politics is a monthly column written by WWPR member Margaret Mulvihill, examining the role of PR in politics.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations
A WOMAN’S WORLD : PUBLIC RELATIONS
Really, a Woman’s World?
There’s a trending phenomenon in my business community, which is public relations in politics. Women outnumber men. Is this new? no, not at all.
Thinking back, this has been an upward spike for the last five or six years. When I first entered the workforce, a majority of the publicists and handlers I met were men, particularly in the political arena. Women tended to be secretaries, copy editors, or artists. Today, women outnumber men in the ranks, yet men continue to occupy the top management seats, earning higher salaries for the same work.
So you might ask, is public relations in politics the way for women to go today? the answer to that is mixed. Assuming the continuation of the current upward trend, the field could well become overcrowded in a decade, because really now – do you know any publicists, especially in politics, who actually retire? I would say not.
IN THE BEGINNING
Like most of my colleagues, I did not start out as a publicist. I began in a related field – fashion – finding myself drawn towards sales, promotions, and marketing. My interest in political campaigning ran along a parallel track. Eventually the tracks converged, and my journey brought me into political public relations proper. I know of other successful ladies who came to public relations through journalism, both print and broadcast.
So many of us ladies start our own shops, building them and growing them by dint of sheer hard work and perseverance. It actually takes a lot of patience and perseverance to build a client base and a name, yet we never hang back, never hesitate to jump in the water. The burgeoning online media community has spawned many public relations shops, as the once unknown social media, marketing and promotions arena conjoin to become less of a mystery to the public. Indeed, online media has become an integral part of all campaigns.
According to Ragan.com, 85 percent of publicists in this country are women. This sounds promising, right? Well, yes and no. A good 80 percent of top management are men. So, even though women lead the field numerically, we also earn less than our male colleagues. Another interesting statistic from Ragan.com is that some forty-odd years ago, women in public relations numbered less than 30 percent.
We cannot rest on our laurels. There is still a huge amount of work to be done in the area of equal pay for women in public relations. Too few of us are in senior management positions. While this is due in part to the fact that more of us open our own shops with men typically remaining in the more financially rewarding corporate area, it is still unacceptable.
Diversity in general is trending, across racial, age and gender platforms. We have a unique opportunity, being at these crossroads in April 2014, to level the financial playing field. Public Relations, within politics or otherwise, is a great business to be in. We owe it to the women coming after us to fight for equal pay for equal work.