My experience of the gender gap in PR

In the week following International Women’s Day (Saturday 8 March 2014) we will be publishing exclusive CIPR Conversation contributions on the experiences and views from women relating to equal pay and gender balance in public relations. For further information on the CIPR’s commitment to tackling this issue, view our online news release and contribute your opinions by completing our ‘Mind the Gap’ survey.

Guest post by Sarah Hall, MD of Sarah Hall Consulting, a PR agency based in the North East of England. Sarah is also a board member and chair of the Professional Practices Committee for the CIPR.

I have always worked in the agency world and at the start of my career, never really noticed any discrepancies in terms of opportunities and pay, although looking back, for the most part my bosses were mainly men.

I was lucky to be headhunted for every new role I took and was given opportunities to develop, until I moved into a director role when life was much different.

It wasn’t long before I realised that – although we were doing a similar role – many of the male employees had a better job title and were earning a lot more than me, in some cases up to £10k more. When I asked about this, it was never disputed, but never dealt with.

I started my own business to address the problem – a fact of life for many, although it shouldn’t have to be this way.

There are two things to take from this. The first is that I do hold some responsibility for the situation I was in. Perhaps if I had been more assertive and placed a formal request to know what peers were earning, things might have been different as I would have had more bargaining power. It is therefore absolutely critical to have organisational transparency in terms of pay structures to create a level playing field. It is the perfect starting point.

The second is that organisations need to be honest about the challenges of employing women of childbearing age and work out a better way to navigate maternity leave and the return to work. I know I was seen as a ‘ticking clock’, which hampered my prospects. Quite frankly it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to be in this position and we must do more to nurture and keep senior female talent because of what they have to offer.

Which brings me onto a key point that I believe also needs to be addressed.  PR is touted as the perfect, flexible career choice for working mums, something I strongly dispute. It is deadline driven, stressful and with the rise of social media, requires more out of hours’ management than ever. Also, as we have seen from the CIPR’s State of the Profession survey, on average salaries are around £12,000 less compared to those of our male colleagues.

How to introduce flexible working and equal pay should be at the forefront of every PR employer’s agenda – and the CIPR’s – because only then will the industry really flourish.

Leave a Reply