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Help create a more equal PR industry

The Government Response to the Women and Equalities Committee Second Report makes for sobering reading, of the 17 recommendations made by the committee in their 2016 report, 16 of them were for the Government (the other was addressed to Equality and Human Rights Commission).

I commend the entire report to you, but for now I want to draw your attention to four important points.

Firstly, recommendation 9 is pertinent to our industry ‘to create a National Pathways into Work scheme for harnessing the skills and experience of women over 40’.

We know that women leave the PR profession in droves and do not return. We know that some of this is to do with childcare and other caring responsibilities. And we know when it comes to the leadership roles within PR that our 76% female profession, drops to under 50%.

The CIPR has written guidance on returning to work after maternity leave, but I wonder if we should and could do more. How many women want to return to the profession, but fear they would not be welcomed? What else can we do – and what assistance do we want government to provide. I believe this is a key area for our questions to the committee, to put to Justin Greening, Minister for Women and Equalities. I am not sure that suggesting women access the National Careers Service is enough.

Secondly, there are a number of recommendations (1c, 3, 4, 5 and 6) that call for greater flexibility in at work and seek to establish base line data and the ability to track improvements. The recommendations also call for awareness to be raised within business of the positive impact this way of working can have.

The CIPR has developed a guidance document about flexible working featuring men and women, all working flexibly for different reasons. The committee recommends that there should be a strong narrative and campaign developed outlining the productivity and business benefits of flexible working and hiring. I agree.  Is this somewhere where PR professionals can add their voice to the questions for the Minister, and can we also look to develop solutions and ideas; perhaps we should run our own campaign?

Thirdly, recommendations 15, 16 and 17 lay out additional detail and action that should be taken around reporting the gender pay information, from breaking the data down into full time and part time roles (not currently required) to reducing the size of organisations who must comply from 250 employees, to 150 immediately and then to 50 in two years and finally that there must be a strategy that places the gender pay gap reporting as a first step towards continuous and far reaching improvements.

This issue is something the CIPR, and I personally, have championed for years. We have an astonishing gender pay gap in PR and we want our industry to be included in the mandatory publication of data.

Currently most PR agencies won’t have to publish their data as there are so few over 250 employees, many more would be included if the number of employees was lowered. This I believe, coupled with a strategy for addressing the issues are essential and does the response from Government fully take up these recommendations and the opportunity they present to eradicate the gender pay gap.

Finally, The Women and Equalities Committee is asking for help, asking for questions to be submitted, please do consider what question you would like to ask and send it to Catherine (email) by April 3.

For the sake of every young man and woman working in public relations we owe them our support to ensure that the gender pay gap is eradicated in a generation.

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Sarah Pinch FCIPR, MIoD is MD of Pinch Point Communications, President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 2015, and a Non Executive Director of the Health and Safety Executive.

  1. Thank you Karen for your comments. The industry has a major issue and it’s clearly been around for some years now. We will be releasing a new qualitative research report on IWD which I also commend to you & it would be good to have you comments on it.

    Perhaps we can meet up? I’m determined this industry of ours will be better for our sons and daughters.

  2. I am a 52-year old (female) communications professional with more than 25 years experience of working in communication in the UK and abroad (Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore). And I can honestly say this is the most eloquent of articles written about the subject which was a source of stress for me in my 20s when I was thinking about how I could work (part time) and have a family. Practically, working in the private sector I felt that I couldn’t have a family and have a successful career because of the demands of the client (this is before social media and pagers were the gadget du jour) and the media.

    I frankly regretted my career choice because it’s clear the odds are still stacked against women successfully juggling home, children and work. Voting with their feed demonstrates that the industry still hasn’t got its head around it. You’ve asked for solutions and they are simply effective communication. Negotiating with your line manager before, during and your return from maternity leave is essential. Lobbying ministers, journalists, women’s magazines,effective use of platforms such as Mumsnet, networking, staying current is key. Being flexible when you get back to work. Every school holiday is not a working parent’s right to have that time off. However, it will take generations to sort out this inequality.

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