While women have made major strides in the workforce in the past few years, they hold on average fewer senior level positions than their male counterparts. This is even more striking in PR. Although nearly 80 percent of the public relations industry is comprised of women, about four out of every five leadership positions are held by men.
Our industry is missing out on an untapped resource.
An Open Forum study comparing growth of firms led by men and women revealed that women-owned companies have been more successful than their male counter parts, growing at nearly double the rate in the last several years. A separate Catalyst study showed that companies with the most women in senior management had higher returns on equities—by more than a third.
Why are women such effective leaders?
1. Women are active listeners. Women know when it’s time to listen and tend to be more empathetic than men. We’re able to more clearly understand the needs of others because we connect on a deeper level. This enables us to be more attuned to client’s needs and more sincere in the delivery of language, creating the possibility for satisfied, long-term customers.
2. Women tend to be more social. Studies show that women are more social than men, leading to higher rates of effective collaboration and creativity within a business. We’re also extremely social with technology. A recent study by Moosylvania revealed that women are more likely to use smartphones and tablets than men to seek interaction. Women are comfortable making connections with both acquaintances and strangers, which can be a huge driver for new business.
3. Women are plugged into current events. Women are more likely to stay up-to-date with the news and apply it to clients and workplace issues. While men have better special capacity for mental rotation, women outperform men in spatial memory and executing multiple tasks as once, such as scrolling the news, answering a phone, and reflecting on a problem. This also makes women effective at strategizing solutions.
4. Women are more effective in group settings. Women aren’t afraid to speak with others about issues and stress. We’re better connectors. Although there isn’t a direct link between IQs of members on a team, a recent Harvard Business Review study found that a group including women tends to have a higher collective intelligence. Our natural ability to communicate allows us to better paint a picture of the future.
5. The “big picture” is more in-focus for women leaders. While men typically focus on money and larger gains, women tend to focus on the bigger picture and be more risk averse. A recent Accenture survey shows women are likely to care about work-life balance over money, fostering an environment for overall success at a company.
This article sparked quite a debate in our offices—and we’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments. We don’t judge a person’s competence by his or her gender, but even in our office we have more men in leadership positions than women despite the staff being largely female. No one could pinpoint why, but we agreed the PR industry would benefit by better leveraging the strength of women in leadership positions.
Christine Pietryla is the senior vice president of public relations at Walker Sands Communications.