PR Women with Influence

Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges

by Juan Meng (Author) Marlene S. Neill (Author)
©2021 Textbook XX, 220 Pages


PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges makes a unique and timely contribution by exploring how women in public relations navigate through attitudinal, structural and social barriers in advancing their leadership roles. The book is thoroughly grounded in rich empirical evidence gained through two phases of a funded research project conducted in the field. Phase I involves 51 in-depth interviews with current female leaders in public relations and Phase II captures women’s perceptions on gender-related barriers in leadership advancement by recruiting a national panel of female public relations professionals.
Results presented in this book provide a compelling, current picture of women and leadership in public relations. By emphasizing our discussion on key issues and barriers as related to women in PR and their leadership advancement, the authors call for real actions and change to develop a constructive ecosystem within the organization to embrace leadership for women in PR.
Given its sharp topic focus, wealth of empirical data, and the relevance of the topic to today’s public relations profession, this book is suitable for different audiences both nationally and globally. Such audiences include but are not limited to public relations scholars, educators and professionals, both leaders and emerging leaders, men and women, young professionals, women of color, and public relations majors. This book is appropriate for senior-level undergraduate and graduate courses in public relations and communication management to facilitate critical thinking, leadership development, and gender-related topic discussion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Section I In Search of PR Women with Influence
  • Chapter One Introduction: Why Study PR Women with Influence
  • Chapter Two Research Design and Methods How We Approach This Subject
  • Section II A Grand Landscaping
  • Chapter Three Situational Barriers to PR Women’s Leadership Advancement
  • Chapter Four Ethical Leadership and the Meaning of Building Influence to Women in PR
  • Chapter Five PR Women’s Leadership Development and Participation Opportunities
  • Chapter Six Balancing Professional and Family Responsibilities
  • Section III Deep Conversations
  • Chapter Seven How Women in PR Define and Achieve Influence
  • Chapter Eight How Women in PR Approach Ethics Counsel
  • Chapter Nine Support Network
  • Section IV Synthesis and Summary
  • Chapter Ten Building an Ecosystem A Constructive Path to Leadership for Women in PR
  • Index
  • Series index

←viii | ix→




Chapter Three

Figure 3.1. Leaders’ vs. non-leaders’ perceptions on situational barriers

Figure 3.2. The impact of situational barriers on women’s leadership advancement in public relations

Figure 3.3. Top issues causing the underrepresentation of PR women in leadership

Figure 3.4. Professionals’ projection of issues to be improved in next three years

Chapter Four

Figure 4.1. Using strategies to build and expand influence when providing leadership and ethics counseling

Figure 4.2. Readiness for providing leadership and ethics counseling by race (in percentages)

Figure 4.3. Do top communication leaders demonstrate ethical behaviors? Opinions of surveyed female professionals (in percentages)

Figure 4.4. Perceptual gaps on ethical leadership along the hierarchy reporting line

Figure 4.5. Assessment of principled behaviors of ethical leadership by race

←ix | x→

Chapter Five

Figure 5.1. Resources for leadership development supported by organization as observed by female professionals (in percentages)

Figure 5.2. Resources for leadership development as perceived by different ethnic groups (agreement in percentages)

Figure 5.3. Resources for leadership development as perceived by age (in percentages)

Figure 5.4. Leadership participation opportunities as observed by respondents (in percentages)

Figure 5.5. Leadership participation opportunities by race (agreement in percentages)

Figure 5.6. Organizations’ efforts in supporting women’s leadership advancement: in the past and in the future (mean scores as rated by different ethnic groups)

Figure 5.7. Performance of top communication leaders: evaluations on key dimensions (in percentages)

Figure 5.8. Evaluation on top communication executives’ leadership performance as reported by different ethnic groups

Chapter Six

Figure 6.1. The impact of work-life conflict as perceived by female professionals (in percentages)

Figure 6.2. The impact of work-life conflict as perceived by different age groups

Figure 6.3. The impact of work-life conflict as perceived by different ethnic groups

Figure 6.4. The impact of work-life conflict compared by leadership status

Figure 6.5. The impact of work-life conflict compared by organizational type

Figure 6.6. Coping strategies to manage work-family conflict, from most preferred to least preferred (in percentages)

Figure 6.7. Numbers of mentors in professional career reported by female professionals (in percentages)

Figure 6.8. The dynamics of mentors’ gender changes as the number of mentors increases (in percentages)

←xii | xiii→




A book of this caliber, on one of the most important topics in public relations, is long overdue. For decades scholars have been writing about the disparity in gender and racial representations in public relations leadership. The field heavily employs women, but they tend to be in technical roles. Leadership positions are reserved for men. White men in public relations often ride a “glass elevator,” a term coined by Christine Williams (1992), as they quickly ascend to the top, passing many deserving women along the way. It is a phenomenon that happens most often in professions favored by women, and public relations is no exception.

Today the public relations industry is at a crossroads with enormous pressure to adapt to society’s rapid move toward diversity. The field must find balance in its gender and racial diversity at all levels of the industry. And, further, it needs to create a culture that mentors and educates women who move into leadership. This book offers a roadmap to help agencies, corporations and other entities address the disparity in leadership and build strong female leaders who can manage through complexities.

Through its 51 interviews and large-scale survey of public relations professional women, this book offers the most thoroughly researched discussion of the intersection of gender and race in public relations leadership. Authors Meng and Neill draw insights from their multi-method research approach on female leaders and the challenges they face. The book uncovers the struggles and successes of ←xiii | xiv→women in leadership, and it offers strategies to help women build influence and leverage skills for success in their roles. Female professionals will find the insights in this book valuable as they face ethical and leadership challenges in today’s workplace.

One of the most important contributions of this book is the list of recommendations that the book makes for organizations to improve their leadership pipeline for women. Following the suggestions in this book will help companies and agencies create a workplace environment that cultivates strong female leaders.

Whether you are a public relations scholar, educator, practitioner or student, this book will challenge your thinking about the profession, and it will help you understand how together we must move forward with an eye toward leadership development for diverse professionals.

Strong leadership is critical to any organization and any profession. As former practitioners in the field, we have witnessed much of what the book describes firsthand. And, we are thrilled to support the work of Meng and Neill. The Arthur W. Page Center and The Plank Center are proud to co-sponsor this research.

Denise Sevick Bortree, Ph.D.
The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication
Penn State University


XX, 220
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XX, 220 pp., 25 b/w ill., 18 tables.

Biographical notes

Juan Meng (Author) Marlene S. Neill (Author)

Juan Meng, PhD, is an associate professor and founding director of Go Global Choose China and the Cooperative Education programs at the University of Georgia. Meng serves on the national board of advisors of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and is an elected member of the Arthur W. Page Society. Marlene S. Neill, PhD, APR, is an associate professor and graduate program director at Baylor University and teaches courses in advertising and public relations. Her research interests include public relations management and ethics. Neill worked for almost 12 years in government and nonprofit public relations.


Title: PR Women with Influence
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242 pages