The public relations and communications industry is one of those rare ones where there are more women than men. Over the years, the industry has not just evolved in terms of the value that it brings to companies, but also in the way it leads by example how to create a more gender-equal ecosystem.
However, there is still much more to be done. And just like everyone else, the pandemic also jolted the PR and communications industry into questioning assumptions about what its women professionals want.
Earlier this month, Global Women in PR (GWPR), a global organisation for senior women in PR and communications made up of networking groups and individuals from around the world, released its 2020 Annual Index. Its Indian findings throw up some interesting insights, both, for the way things are and the way they should be.
The way things are…
One of the things I found gratifying was that half of the people surveyed said that their company actively encourages women to develop their management and personal skills and 30% women are even offered funding to attend events and conferences to support their career development. This is huge, because it shows that organizations in our industry are invested in the growth and development of their women professionals.
…and the way they aren’t
The picture isn’t all rosy, however. Over half say they feel stressed on a typical working day, and 29% feel overwhelmed. With this in mind, a third (34%) have been absent from work due to work-related stress or anxiety. When the lockdown began, many of us thought that the flexibility that many women always wanted from their employers was finally going to be theirs. But as all of us women realized, lack of childcare and home schooling has meant that women were now working even longer hours and many experienced ‘burn out’ as home and work boundaries blurred.
The way they should be
The truth is that while the public relations and communications industry should be proud of how much it has managed diversity so far, there are challenges to overcome. Clearly, representation matters, because a huge majority (87%) believe that more needs to be done to ensure women in the PR industry have greater boardroom presence. For an industry that is two-thirds women, we definitely need to do better on that front.
Women professionals have also expressed the need for mentoring schemes as a way for them to learn from those who have been there, done that. That is where networks like GWPR, WPP’s Stella mentoring programme, and the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) come in. And perhaps we need even more. A culture of mentoring needs to be nurtured in the industry.
Besides visibility of women leaders and access to mentors, women are looking for platforms where they can share, and we listen, instead of assuming what they need from work and work environment. They need organisations to create the culture and systems that make it easier to have those conversations.
The fact is that gender equality is work in progress. Ours is an industry that gives a glimpse to other sectors on how things can be if there are more women than men—a different prism through which to see the environment and more openness for and understanding of what women need from their work.
Even in our industry, there is a journey to be made. The only way we can move forward is if we continue to #ChooseToChallenge assumptions, attitudes and apathy, and counter it with listening, mentoring, encouraging, respecting and empathising.
(The writer is founding board member, GWPR India Chapter. Views expressed are personal)
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