Iliyana's Blog

Women on the Rise – or Are We?

[fa icon="calendar"] 18-Jul-2013 13:07:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

Lately women, leadership and women towards a successful top level careercareer has been a growing topic of interest and media coverage, especially promoted by Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling and eye-opening book Lean In (which I wholeheartedly recommend and will blog about it very soon).

Unfortunately, women have a long way to go until gender inequality, pay gaps and stereotypes are solved (if ever!) and until it becomes normal for the C-Suite to be 50% female.

But, as research suggests, we are making progress – especially women in Germany (where I live) and in communications (the field I work in and want to make a career in).

The PR industry has traditionally been dominated by women; however mainly so at the lower executive or mid-level. When it comes to the managerial and the C-level though, the majority of the top positions are predominantly held by men. A study on the feminisation of PR in Germany just confirms this. As the research has found, women:

  • consistently earn less than men regardless of their level of education and years of work experience;
  • face much stronger salary discrimination when deciding to start a family;
  • receive less recognition for their performance;
  • get rather sanctioned if they are as tough and as competitive as men;
  • but have to still adjust to the male role and work model if they want a successful career;
  • and so have to work even harder to prove themselves, including having to study more and to focus more strongly on acquiring business and management knowledge (thank God I am about to graduate with a double BA degree in International Business!).

So, the feminisation of the PR industry turns out to be mainly quantitative and equal opportunities for both men and women in PR don’t really seem to be the case.

The good news is there are already quite a few women, who have managed to reach the top – 24% of females in the German PR industry run leadership positions, which is a lot higher than the average for other industries. What’s also interesting is that career as a priority is in general more important to women than it is to men in PR and climbing the career ladder plays an increasingly more significant role for women with children. So, women are not hiding it anymore – we want a career and we are ready to work hard to achieve it.

Furthermore, according to both men and women the top skills required for a good manager are rather typically female attributes such as communications skills, ability to engage in a dialogue and empathy, which in turn define an effective leadership style as one based on co-operation.

I still can’t help but wonder though: What happens to all those women who start out their careers in PR, become more successful over the first few years and then don’t reach the leadership positions? I know that many leave the field to have children and focus on taking care of their families (which is absolutely fine because everyone has different priorities), but is that all women?

What’s important here is that companies themselves should encourage and help females grow and most importantly create and provide such a flexible work environment so that women can have the chance to pursue a successful career and to be a mother at the same time. Because at the end of the day, we all know it is still women who primarily take care of the family, but many organisations haven’t yet developed a system that allows women to effectively balance work and family. Many females simply cannot cope juggling both and deal with barriers such as long working hours or frequent international business trips, which is why they often decide to leave the workforce. What does that say about loss of talent and expertise for the industry though?

On the other hand, the ones who stay to pursue a career, suffer significantly – the study shows that ca. 79% of the surveyed women don’t have children in contrast to only ca. 30% of men; also men who are dads have on average up to four kids, women who are mothers on the other hand only one child. And what does that say about future birth ratios?

For women to have an equal chance of a great career people’s mindsets need to change and, as Arianna Huffington says, we need to redefine success to not only be about the quantitative metrics such as money and power, but about the qualitative measures of true personal well-being.


Topics: Public Relations, Career, Leadership

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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