Report: PR is a ‘pink ghetto’ for women

They gravitate toward careers in public relations because it’s ‘softer’ and more creative, says the company behind the study.


Some senior PR practitioners in Australia consider the public relations a “pink ghetto” because of the prevalence of female workers, according to a new study from Sydney recruiting firm Salt & Shein.

Overall, this is a bad thing for the industry, the study said.

“I really worry that it makes us appear to be a bit of a ‘pink ghetto’, so that we’re perhaps taken less seriously by management,” a female corporate affairs/investor relations professional (who remained anonymous) told Salt & Shein.

Given that March 8 is International Women’s Day, and given the white-hot focus on women’s health issues in the United States these days, this depiction is certain to raise the ire of many within and outside the industry.

The term “pink ghetto” is a familiar but tone-deaf phrase used to describe any profession in which women appear to dominate. Last month, VentureBeat‘s Jodie O’Dell thrust the term into the public (or at least social media) consciousness in the United States when she tweeted:

“Women: Stop making startups about fashion, shopping, & babies. At least for the next few years. You’re embarrassing me.”

In one of the many responses, Tara Hunt, co-founder and CEO of Buyosphere, said that “every single profession where the population of women starts growing” has been referred to as a “pink ghetto.”

According to the Salt & Shein study, male and female senior practitioners question whether the trend toward the “feminization” of the PR industry is healthy.

“For some it has become the elephant in the room,” the report said. “It is causing practitioners to reflect on issues such as diversity of views and gender balance within the workplace, career management, and even senior management’s perceptions of the corporate affairs function.”

The study said that women dominate the PR and corporate affairs industry in Australia, both at agencies and in-house, filling more than three-quarters of specialized roles. This process of “feminization” has occurred over the last 30 years. Among the members of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, 73 percent are women, according to the study.

In the United States, too, women outnumber men in the PR workplace. The percentage of women in the industry is said to be as high as 85 percent. Public relations professionals and educators have speculated on the reasons for the prevalence of women in the industry. A recent survey of collegiate men sought to determine why they choose to join the PR field.

Salt & Shein partner Josh Shein had his own idea, which he offered to Australia’s AdNews.

“Girls and gay blokes gravitate to PR,” he said. “It’s always been that way. I suspect it’s because PR and corporate affairs is seen as a softer skill set in terms of judgment. It’s more creative. And the softer skills set is more about influencing as opposed to, say, the sales function.”

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