Bridgen, L. (2013) Why do women leave public relations? A feminist phase analysis
Women outnumber men in junior to mid-level public relations roles across most of the world. However, at senior level this trend is reversed, despite women comprising the majority of public relations practitioners across all occupational levels. There have been many attempts in public relations literature to explain the reason for women’s under-representation at the top level in public relations. While many papers acknowledge the complexity of the issue, the myriad of perspectives from which the problem can be viewed has done little to clarify the position or suggest concrete ways that women can be more strongly represented in senior management. Research in the area of women leaving public relations tends to focus on pre-assumed reasons such as family (e.g. Hanson Research, 2012) and thus falls into the ‘assumption trap’ about female reasons for leaving public relations, namely family and childbirth, a worldview that is repeated in populist literature. Such a view has been debunked by, e.g., Korabik and Rosin (1995) but nonetheless, family issues do cause women to leave occupations but not simply because their attention is turned to childrearing. As a result of the rich seam of research in other fields, this paper carries out a feminist phase analysis of published papers on the reason for women leaving skilled occupations outside public relations to explore the motivations and decision-making procedure of female early leavers. Using findings of research carried out in disciplines such as computer science/IT engineering and management roles in general as a starting point, a series of themes/hypotheses has been developed which can, in the future, be tested on women who had left public relations in order to establish a more satisfactory explanation for the loss of female talent from the public relations industry. The hypotheses are: 1. There is a lack of good and relevant mentors/role models in senior or specialist roles. The existing role models and mentors often do not live the lifestyles or exhibit behaviour that young female professionals aspire to. 2. ‘Risky’ behaviour is rewarded with promotion, salary increases and favourable job roles. Risky behaviour incudes late night/early morning working; frequent travel at short notice; working with elite people with little support; carrying out tasks above an individual’s role with success; sacrificing personal time for work. 3. Women who are not able to partake in ‘risky’ work, or are limited in their working hours due to caring responsibilities, are given roles which are less fulfilling and/or prevent them from gaining management skills or accessing senior professionals 4. Women sometimes want to change careers, but this can result in a lack of visibility. 5. Women are pushed and not pulled into leaving, often because rigid personnel policies mean that the flexibility needed by women to combine home and career do not exist. As a result, women are often sidelined or take up low visibility jobs – and thus their career does not develop.
Citation:Bridgen, L. (2013) Why do women leave public relations? A feminist phase analysis. Paper presented at BledCom, Slovenia, 13-14 June 2013
Research Group:Media Discourse Group
- Leicester Media School