PR – A Great Place For Women

This past Tuesday while sifting through hundreds of papers for my current ghost-writing project, I stumbled across an old PRSA Newsletter from the National Capital Chapter (Vol. XII No. 2 – February 1973.) I found this particularly interesting since my ghost-writing piece has absolutely nothing to do with public relations, yet somehow it underlines my belief that everything is always connected. While reading through the newsletter a certain article grabbed my attention; “PR: A Great Place For Women” by Paula G. Johnson of the Robert R. Mullen & Company. Since I cannot locate it an any archives, I’ve posted the entirety of the article below, however, I wanted to specifically share my favorite part which was the “Guide for Truly Professional PR Women”:

1. When authority comes, wear it gracefully, like a best dress we don’t want to soil or spot. There’s no room in a profession dedicated to building bridges of good will for…officious females.

2. Welcome the tough and unusual job and subject areas. It’s just as important to have and offer the woman’s viewpoint on the impact of Phase III price controls, for instance, as on fragrance and packaging of household cleanser. More PR women are needed in the “esoteric” corners of business, government, and industry.

3. Guard faithfully against taking or positioning business matters personally — difficult because we are generally more subjective than objective. The trick is to balance femininity, qualities like subjectivity, and intuitiveness that distinguish us as women, with a fundamentally businesslike attitude toward every-thing we do on the job. And, for women as well as men in our field, there is absolutely no substitute for hard work, knowing what we’re about, and well-practiced communications skills when it comes to gathering information, selling an idea, or moving a program forward.

I believe this truly shows the difference between PR in 1973 and PR now-a-days, although, I do believe this was and is still good advice. As far as the rest of the article is concerned, Johnson dictates several points about public relations that really hit home for me as to why I’m in this field. I’ve bolded these statements.

Article:

As far as my choice of careers is concerned, I feel like the child at a birthday party who has been cut the biggest piece of cake. Public relations has more advantages than any other field I know, particularly for women.

In the first place, public relations practitioners deal in the most fundamental of human activities: communication. Labor disputes, racial strife, war – the full range of today’s problems stems largely from lack of understanding – or at least agreement – derived through communication of one kind or another that brings enduring solutions.

Within the field of communications, PR probably offers the greatest opportunities to engage in successful and significant problem solving. For one thing, we’re not limited to any one type of communication or communications technique. Our opportunities to be effective are bounded only by the extent of our imagination and ingenuity. 

We are, furthermore, in a position to be take seriously, and in most cases, we haven’t had to climb to the corporate or bureaucratic heights to reach this position. In today’s consumerist climate, for instance, where the social value and consequences of business and government action must be constantly taken into account, the advice of public relations counselors is being increasingly sought and heeded. In the consumer area alone, if we involve ourselves, we can make an indelible contribution to resolving crucial social and economic issues.

As someone who demands that every day be different from the one before, I would be the last to slight such advantages as the everchaging pattern of faces, places, situations, and subjects that a typical public relations position can offer. The greatest career satisfaction by far, however, lies in the opportunity for success based on the solid values of objectivity, fact-finding and dissemination, and the integrity that comes of planning and executing programs that meet genuine needs, needs that our own thorough research has shown really do exist.

Public relations is almost unique among career fields in offering its advantages impartially to men and women. While in other professions, women are still knocking at the board room door, we have had longstanding acceptance in executive PR positions. Many of the first counselors, of course, were man-and-wife teams. The women on these teams set a precedent that now, a few decades later, society’s more liberated attitude towards career women has come along and reinforced.

Today, in fact, we have a delightful situation: a demand for women professionals that is beginning to exceed the supply. As PRSA headquarters notes, it is often easier to place women PR or journalism majors right out of college than it is to find jobs for recent men grads. Salary matters I won’t go into. Inequities do exist, but they are being rectified more quickly than in other fields.

It has been said that public relations offers women a chance in their everyday work to exercise qualities they innately possess: ability to respond to “human” as opposed to pragmatic considerations, capacity for detail, rapport with people. . . Basically, I agree, although sensitivity, patience, and diplomacy certainly are traits we share with many perceptive men.

Capable as I believe many women are for success in public relations, there are ways we can improve – and enrich our contribution to the field. Understandably, I think, a certain amount skepticism about working with women does exist among bosses, clients, and staff PR people of both sexes.

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