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PR Women with Influence

Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges


Juan Meng and Marlene S. Neill

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. 

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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...

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