Why do so few men go into PR?

Wed, Mar 13, 2013

HAPPO, PR

I haven’t worked on the client/agency side of PR now for almost four years. But, when I was, I was typically one of a handful (and in a few cases the ONLY) guy on my PR team.

Men of PR

I’m hardly alone. According to studies, nearly 85 percent of our industry is comprised of women.

85 percent.

And among PRSA members, 73 percent are female.

Now, women will be quick to argue that men hold many leadership positions in PR, so the fact that they dominate in terms of sheer numbers means nothing.

However, when I look around the agencies here in the Twin Cities, I simply don’t see that. Beehive PR–run by the uber-smart Lisa Hannum. Weber Shandwick–Sara Gavin and a number of senior women leaders. Padilla Speer Beardsley–Lynn Casey, of course. And, there are a number of great corporate women PR leaders–Kelly Groehler at Best Buy, Gail Liebl at Travelers, and Gabby Nelson at Sleep Number (client) just to name a few.

Anyway, I’m not here to debate that topic–but I do continue to wonder why so few men go into PR at an early age?

I would suggest a few theories:

More money in other professions

Unlike many women (sorry, blanket statement), more men are driven by money (and power). And PR simply doesn’t provide that like other industries do (I’m thinking of professional services like accounting and legal, and the medical profession). Men are simply following the money.

It’s not a “manly” profession

Guys see how PR is portrayed in the media. They see the movies that show women working in PR. It has a reputation now as an industry that’s mostly made up of women. Over time, that has a tendency to feed itself. I think there’s a certain stigma attached to PR–and that drives men away.

They don’t understand PR

PR isn’t one of those professions everyone understands. And, when you’re choosing a major, that’s a big deal. Accounting, law, engineering, financial services. These are industries that, on the surface, are easier to understand. Therefore, more men are seeking them out.

There’s a generational issue at play

Sons grow up watching their fathers. Many fathers work in industries like financial services, engineering, construction and the like. Those sons grow up watching their fathers, emulating them. And, in turn, they end up going into those same professions. How many 50-year-olds do you know who have daughters in the PR field? I know a number–mostly moms and daughters. Case in point.

What do you think? Why are so few men going into PR today?

Note: Photo courtesy of Judy via FlickR Creative Commons.

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59 comments
FrankDefalco
FrankDefalco

I am not sure why I am one of those few male students in PR also currently enrolled in a program. When looking at beefing up my skills PR looked like a perfect fit for me. It never occurred to me it was dominated to such an extent by woman. I don't really agree with any of the points above, maybe a little about "understanding," the skills needed to excel in PR are in self reflection not something well regarded in what being a man is supposed to be. 

If one worries about it anyway you are in the wrong industry. Like many other things that seem to scream for an answer and are not clear, they are a myriad reasons why.

daveharrison004
daveharrison004

It's likely not changing either. I'm currently working on an advanced diploma in public relation. In our class of thirty there are five male students, which from what I've been told is actually pretty high. By comparison in last year's class of 30 there was one male student.

BenChelliah
BenChelliah

@missy_gi: That's an interesting piece. There is some truth in it, I guess. But why would anyone NOT want to do PR? It's amazing. :)

MoSharee8
MoSharee8

@CoSIDAnews @arikhanson Makes you wonder if sports PR\/MR positions are also included in these studies. Probably won't skew too much though

VincentHazleton
VincentHazleton

Please get the numbers right. I don't know of any studies which show 85% of practitioners are women. Data from the federal govt., Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of employers and the monthly Current Population survey of the census bureau shows that 60% women and 40% men in PR. In PRSA 71% of members are women not 73%.

VINCENT Hazleton, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA

Professor of Communication

Radford University

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

"It's not a manly profession."  Hmmm.  Not sure what to make of that.   There's no doubt it's dominated by women.  On the agency side, I've always worked for women.  On in house side, the CMO has always been a man.  

MikeSchaffer
MikeSchaffer

Very interesting topic to address, Arik. I just crunched some numbers on my company, of a shade under 50 practitioners (so extracting admin/support) and we are 20% male.

 

For me, I backed into PR in college. I dabbled in print, radio and TV work through courses, internships and activities. While I developed a passion for media, I also developed a passion for a steady paycheck, health insurance and somewhat (ha!) reasonable hours. That led me to PR, where I could work with the media, diversify my client portfolio and own projects.

 

I look at my friends and former classmates who stuck on the media side and see lack of job security, constant movement, years spent in places I would rather not be (no disrespect to some of America's finest hidden gems, but I'm a city mouse) and the inability to take time off. Not my cup of tea, but I'm happy that they are happy.

GeriRosmanPR
GeriRosmanPR

Arik--interesting piece. Often wonder about this myself. Could it be a left brain/right brain phenomenon? That is, women tend to be more creative, communicative, storytellers and  men are "better" (cough cough!), or guided more frequently to more analytical professions? I think it also takes a certain personality to be in pr -- persistent, outgoing -- traits not always developed in young men. 

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

Here's my take: PR as an industry needs to create a better public understanding. Ask the average person what he/she thinks PR is...and most will answer "party planning."  Do guys plan parties? No. Well, some do, but not many. In order for the perception to change, we need some really manly men to educate students that it is an equal opportunity profession; that there are many facets to the industry and of the powerful role PR often plays in corporate decision-making. 

kenwheaton
kenwheaton

@rachelakay I'd bet the bulk of men in PR are in crisis PR where they can grunt, front, kick ass and take names and yell

kenwheaton
kenwheaton

@rachelakay I'm going to venture it's because there's too much babysitting, ego-stroking and butt-kissing involved.

BPLewis
BPLewis

@kmaverick Me am man. Me work in finance. Me not want PR job. Me see women in PR on television. Me want to be manly

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @Frank_Strong That's the interesting rub--dominated by women, yet men still make up a lot of the senior roles, mostly on the marketing side.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @MikeSchaffer The media path is going to be a tough one to convince kids to take now. Low pay. Fewer jobs. And, like you said, you have to live in some fairly rural communities before (if ever) you break through. PR has it's drawbacks, too. Crazy hours and a low pay ceiling (for some). For the most part, you can't really make a ton in PR. I know salaries at the higher levels go up dramatically, but for the lion's share of the workforce, you don't make a ton of dough in our industry (compared to others, at least).

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @GeriRosmanPR Personality types definitely has something to do with it. People scoff at that "manly" comment though, but I really think there's something to that. Go ask some guys some time what they think of PR...

kmaverick
kmaverick

%s %s I'm not disagreeing with the %s. I think the "thoughts on why" are completely ridiculous

kmaverick
kmaverick

@BPLewis basically i read the entire article with that tone of voice

kmaverick
kmaverick

%s %s i just think your opinions highlighted stereotypes vs fact. the %s were great

arikhanson
arikhanson

@rachelakay See,I was the opposite. I went INTO PR b\/c of the women. 80\/20 ratio--where do I sign up! :)

rachelakay
rachelakay

@arikhanson Not necessarily. PR as a woman's job is a common stereotype. I think that's what you meant by the TV comment.

adamkmiec
adamkmiec

@kmaverick I just mean the raw data. The overwhelming majority of pr pros are female. Ditto with account management.