Thursday, 4 March 2010

Still a velvet ghetto?

It has been 24 years since IABC Research Foundation published "The Velvet Ghetto: The Impact of the increasing percentage of Women in Public Relations and Business Communication." The report analyzed the future of PR as a profession and the possible implications of the fact that there was an increase in the number of women joining PR. The study found out that:
  • Women were more likely to perceive themselves as technicians and not managers
  • Women were paid less than men - even when other variables were controlled
  • Professions diminished in salary and status if they moved from male to female dominance
The situation seems not to have changed even though in 2002, a survey done found that the glass ceiling had finally been broken. In 2010, 8years later, we are still talking about the probability of women never running PR. Is there something we are missing? Some writers like Lesly(1988) have been known to argue that women actually seek out lower status positions. Is this still the case now?

PR practitioners have always been optimistic since the 80's that the since there were more women in the practise, they will achieve more prestigious positions and higher salaries even as studies have continued to show that their male counterparts earn more. Most of us are tempted to disagree with this fact but we cannot argue with the statistics, can we?

Women will always work in PR but will never run it....?

While the fawcett society actively campaigns for equal rights for professional women, and rightly say that "jobs traditionally done by women are poorly paid and undervalued", we would explore ways in which women are seeking empowerment. Traditionally, jobs such as nursing, secretarial and receptionists tend to be lowly paid. It is quite interesting how PR ended up being one of the most lucrative jobs when men joined at the top positions in the UK and the US. Do men have to do with defining a profession?

Our culture and believes and to an extent the media probably plays a role on how women are viewed and more so view themselves. In class today, while spelling out attributes that define women, we came up with terms such as soft, emotional and multi-tasking while on the other hand we defined men as aggressive and strong. This not withstanding the fact that about 87% of the class is female. Is this how we actually perceive ourselves? At least one finding of the Velvet Ghetto has not come true and the profession has not diminished in salary and status just because it has more women than men.

The debate in class raised some interesting opinions, about how women prefer to pursue family other than career. Is it possible to have both? I believe so. Taking time off to raise a family at the expense of your career is a choice. We pride ourselves as being good at multi-tasking, why then can't we do this simple task?

Even in countries where women have been seen to be homemakers, women are surpassing male domination and becoming CEOs and Directors. If others have made it, the sky should be the limit.

Lesley, P. (1988). Public Relations numbers are up but stature down. PR Review
Grunig, L. et al. (2001) Women in Public Relations: How gender influences practice
Grunig, L. et al.(1984), Women in Public Relations: Problems and Opportunities. In Grunig', J. Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management


  1. Recently i m doing research on Velvet Ghetto. May i know did you have any suggestion to use any theories to apply in Velvet Ghetto?