Young Men Aren’t Entering PR

The July 21 issue of PR Week included an opinion piece by Tom Martin, a communications professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, titled “With a lack of men entering PR, we need new ideas for recruiting.” In it, Tom cites a PRSA member survey that puts the male/female ratio at about 9-to-1.

I sent an e-mail to Tom last week sharing my reaction to his story and he responded by asking if he could print my response as a letter in PR Week. I wanted to share it with you, as well, and get your thoughts on the issue.

I appreciated your thoughtful opinion piece in PR Week calling attention to the lack of men entering PR. As a man, it’s something I’ve noticed for a while, even back to my days in college, where in most of my senior-level PR classes I was the lone male.
I see the same today as I visit college campuses to speak at PR classes. For example, I recently visited a senior PR campaigns class as a judge for student campaign presentations. In a class of probably 35 students, there were two men. In April, I headed back to my alma mater to interview PR students for internship positions at my agency. I met with a LOT of students that day, 95 percent of whom were PR majors. Of that 95 percent, I met one man.
It’s also noticeable when I look around our industry. Whether it’s at PRSA luncheons or within my own department, I find myself asking myself “where are the guys?!” At a time when the marketing industry is rightfully focused on the lack of diversity in our ranks and implementing efforts to raise the number of minorities in our business, it’s interesting that no one else has talked about gender diversity.
Well, that’s not exactly right. I hear a lot of conversation about the fact that a majority of PR executives are men and that women in our industry are under a glass ceiling. Based on my own personal observations, I’m seeing more women in leadership roles today than even five years ago. That’s encouraging news and a very good thing for PR. But I’ve never heard anyone discuss the dwindling number of men in general, race aside, entering our field.

Is this issue on your radar? Do you think it’s important to attract more young men into the field? Should it be a major focus for our industry ? Why or why not?

*Image by Ben Brown.

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9 responses to “Young Men Aren’t Entering PR

  1. As a current PR student, I feel that this a very accurate observation. Females dominate all my PR classes.

    The field of PR has been glamorized and feminized by movies and shows like Sex and The City but the it extends far beyond party planning and publicity…

    I think the increasing influence of new media is attracting more male involvement in the field.

  2. Two good insights, Kelly.

    I agree that Hollywood has been part of the problem. So does Steve Cody. When I was drafting this post last night and ran a search on it, Steve’s post popped up. He goes into detail on why Hollywood’s take on PR people is turning young men away. Here’ a link.

    I also agree that new media could be a way to get more young men excited about PR. It appeals to the natural tech-love affair most men have with gadgets and toys.

  3. David,

    I think there is a lack of interest from young males that begins in college. I studied Communication at GW and was one of the few guys that did. I liked PR and thought that Comm was the track for me. I knew a few guys at GW who liked PR but preferred marketing and the business track.

    The divide began there, and with entry level salaries being what they are, more guys are staying close to their major and choosing to go to corporate marketing positions.

    In addition to the need to address salaries, there also needs to be a bigger sell of the PR work that is tied to business and central to the success of a company.

    Basically, the same argument where making to business execs about the power of and need for PR needs to be made to college students in our efforts to recruit and better the industry.

    I’m a recent grad and could go on about this for a while, so if you’re interested, feel free to contact me:

  4. I’ve heard PR called a “pink collar” industry for years. I don’t think this is a recent trend. Over the years, I’ve seen several male colleagues depart from PR-focused careers to go into trade journalism or marketing instead. At the agency where I work, we have a relatively large percentage of guys (7 out of 35) but at past agencies it’s certainly been a lot lower.

  5. Lara – thanks for sharing.

    I agree that it’s not recent, but thought it was interesting to call out as a truth. I don’t think that it’s beneficial to have a work group that doesn’t at least moderately represent the diverse publics that we’re communicating with. While we rightfully talk about racial diversity, we don’t ever talk about gender diversity.

    As Kelly brought up in the first comment on this post, I wonder if digital PR/social media will help attract more guys going forward.

  6. Hi David:

    Once again, I whole heartedly agree with you, thanks for bringing up another fascinating topic.

    When I was in college, I took classes in both the male-dominated business school, and the female-dominated communication school- and the schools were very different. It is very interesting why there is such a discrepancy.

    I think the schools look at “communication” fundamentally different. Though practices in each school change, I have come to learn that academia has been pretty stagnant.

    For example, business schools have been teaching macro-managment, cooperation, while communication schools are teaching two-way communication and collaboration: neither way is wrong or right, but different. And from that perspective, I think for some reason, males feel more comfortable with the former message than the latter.

    Either way, something needs to change.

  7. Another reason for this trend that relates to some of the comments above, is the nature of the academic curriculum in communications. If the business aspects of PR were stressed more heavily in universities, more men would be attracted to it as a major. In general, I’ve found recent PR grads to be very inadequate in their business background and understanding. So if universities tied their PR departments closer to their business schools it would have two effects: 1) prepare their outgoing students much better for the jobs they will actually have upon graduation; and 2) create more gender balance in the outgoing PR student body.

  8. Pingback: Public Relations Matters » Blog Archive » links for 2008-08-04 []

  9. Pingback: “I Know What Boys Like”…And Apparently It’s Not PR! « Amybeth Hale - Research Goddess

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