Thursday, March 08, 2007

Men, sports and public relations

This semester my Campaigns class is chock-full of students interested in sports. Quite a few blog posts have talked about sports PR, publicity, or crises, and several of the students have worked or are working with sports team--good positions, too, with the Atlanta Falcons and the UGA Athletic Department, for example. I find this curious, because UGA does have a sports promotion program, yet the students chose to major in PR.

I’m not complaining, though. If I subtract from 30 students the five who are primarily interested in sports information, my class would consist of 25 students: 24 women... and one guy. And he, by the way, is going to law school next fall.

Think about that for a minute: none of the male students in my class are PR generalists.

A quick search of a Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2005) report showed there are over 190,000 PR specialists and over 43,000 PR managers. Secondary sources indicate that 65% of PR practitioners were female in 1997 and 67% in 2002, so by now we must be up around 70%.

Obviously I'm not the only blogger to have commented on this. Last year Marcel Goldstein speculated on some reasons men don't go into PR, and PR educator Bill Sledzik has gone so far as to advocate scholarships dedicated to men to encourage them to consider PR as a major. From what Bill says, my 1:5 male-to-female student ratio is actually not bad, compared to 1:9 at Kent and in the PRSSA.

But I haven't heard anyone else talking about male students being almost uniformly interested in sports. If my students are any indication, it won’t be long until the only men left in PR are in sports information.

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The degree to which PR has become feminized over the past 30 years is beyond remarkable--it's phenomenal. When I entered the business in 1976, it was 80 percent male. Now I suspect it is exactly the reverse. PR gatherings in Atlanta are typically 90 percent female, as are the agencies. For this reason, as well as the rampant age discrimination that is being practiced, PR is one of the least diverse professional service industries in America.
Anonymous, you make an interesting point. I have not heard people talking about ageism, except to say "PR's a young person's job," especially referring to agencies. But that makes it sound like only young people WANT the jobs. Do you have any other thoughts on age discrimination in the field?

I appreciate the plug for my 'gender" post. Really thought I'd catch some criticism for it, but was surprised by how many people told me they agreed that we need to do something -- anything -- to restore at least some gender balance to the profession.

Funny that you also cover sports in this context. I get 4-5 inquiries a year about sports PR careers, and most come from young women. Folks asking about sports PR might get another perspective from a post I wrote back in December while watching way too many bowl games:
PR isn’t really a young person’s business, although certain tasks like special events, promotions, and media tours are typically associated with young people. Like any knowledge-based business or profession, public relations needs people who represent a broad spectrum of age, gender, educational preparation and racial or ethnic backgrounds. It doesn’t have that today, and is headed in the wrong direction with respect to diversity.

One reason PR is beginning to consist largely of young females below age 40 is directly linked to economics. Women are still paid less than men, although the gap is closing as college-educated females begin to outnumber college-educated males. This fact goes directly to the bottom line. Especially in agencies, which can make a handsome profit paying people $15-$20 an hour and billing their time at $100-$125 per hour. As their pay rises, however, it’s much more difficult to do that, which means that rates must either go up (difficult to sell) or profit margins must go down. It’s a simple calculus, but it means that people earning more than $75,000 per year are nearly always in some danger, while people earning less than $40,000 are nearly always in demand. The 2000 PRSA/IABC salary survey showed that more than 60 percent of PR people earn less than $70,000 per year. In that sense, it is a young person’s business.

One wonders what will become of young women graduating today when they turn 40 or 50. Perhaps by then the industry will be so desperate for talent that it will do whatever it takes to keep them. But I doubt it.
Anonymous, thanks for replying. What you say gives me something new to add to discussions of pay disparity and lack of diversity in PR.

Hope you will continue to comment on other posts-- you have made a real contribution to my classes already.
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