This is (becoming) a woman’s world

In 1966 James Brown sang that this is a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.

Fast forward 50 years and we have 21 female leaders in charge across the world, either as President or Prime Minister of their countries, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, Erna Solberg of Norway , UK PM Theresa May, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. In November that number could rise further if Hillary Clinton becomes the 45th US President. Have the tables really turned?

Alongside Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, the Labour and the Conservative parties are also led by women: Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson respectively. In Wales, Leanne Wood is the leader of Plaid Cymru while Natalie Bennett represents the Greens.

The Queen is now Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Taylor Swift is the world’s highest earning popstar, Serena Williams won her 22nd Grand Slam Title at Wimbledon this year, nearly 23% of boardroom roles are now filled by women – up from 12.5% in 2010 – and the new Ghostbusters team is exclusively women!

PR has been a very female-friendly profession for some time now. The last PRCA Census in 2013 found that 63% of the UK PR industry is female. Women lead some of the largest agencies and Comms positions for softer consumer and fashion sectors right up to harder industries like financial services.

So if this is becoming a woman’s world, what can we expect from a more female leadership style? The introduction of more typical female traits like compassion, collaboration, ability to nurture and empathy will hold the PR sector in great stead. The development and internal progression of staff could be brought further up companies’ agendas. We could also benefit from a sector that will embrace social issues and being ethical in terms of the development of products and marketing strategies.

What about the way the industry PRs itself? One trait of female leaders is that they tend to be more humble about their own strengths. Male leaders can sometimes have an over-inflated opinion of themselves, whereas female leaders tend to rate their skillsets much lower to how their colleagues rate them.

Will the democratic and often inclusive approach that many women employ in work create a thriving platform for creative minds compared to the more male line manager approach? Decision-making inclusive of more minds is often the strongest approach to creating effective PR campaigns. Moreover, brands may have to adjust their marketing strategies to appeal to a different way of thinking that could reflect the changing attitudes employed by the world’s leaders. This presents a strong opportunity for brands to employ more inclusive social media and online marketing campaigns.

The prevailing issue for women is the glass ceiling. Just 13% of women are Directors in the PR sector vs 29% of men. Indeed the CIPR State of the Profession survey found the mean salary for a male PR practitioner is £56,840, dropping to £44,450 for females – meaning the average PR salary for men is a worrying 28% higher than for women.

While there are still far few women in senior roles but 2016 has seen a seismic change in leadership. What is refreshing to see in the large majority of our female leaders is just how professionally female their approach is. Long may this continue.

Written by Jamie Brownlee, Director

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