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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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Chapter One Introduction: Why Study PR Women with Influence



Introduction: Why Study PR Women with Influence


According to a Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership in 2015, most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation. Some continued and recently updated corporate research also finds that women in leadership positions were perceived “just as—if not more—competent as their male counterparts” (Zenger & Folkman, 2019, June 25). In addition, many agree that women are stronger (or scored at a statistically significant higher level) than men on a wide variety of leadership competencies, ranging from taking initiative, practicing self-development, being compassionate, displaying high integrity and honesty, inspiring and motivating others, building relationships, to well organized and structured at work (Women and Leadership, 2015; Zenger & Folkman, 2019).

However, this general agreement on leadership competencies at the perceptual level does not change the unbalanced scene between men and women in leadership roles, as well as the percentage of women sitting in the corporate boardroom in the U.S. and globally. The efforts on filling the leadership pipeline did not take care of the problem itself. A number of industry reports make clear that women still face the reality of underrepresentation in leadership positions across various industries. Zenger and Folkman’s (2012) longitudinal research on men and women leaders in the workplace has found that the majority of leaders (64%) are still men. Moreover, the higher the level along the hierarchical reporting...

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