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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 Three Situational Barriers to PR Women’s Leadership Advancement



Situational Barriers to PR Women’s Leadership Advancement


Women in public relations leadership are historically underreported, underrepresented and unrecognized (Cline et al., 1986). Although historically women comprise nearly 70–75% of the jobs in the public relations profession, only a small percentage (approximately 20–30%) have made gains in achieving senior leadership positions in the last several years (Place & Vardeman-Winter, 2018; Shah, 2015). Not surprisingly, women have not been historically identified as pioneers or figures in the history of public relations in the United States. According to a recent webinar published by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, among the 17 pioneers identified in the history of public relations in the United States, there are only two women, and those two women are presented in relation to the men with whom they worked (as cited in Hidden figures in public relations, May 4, 2017). There are no minorities nor female public relations professionals that were considered pioneers when reviewing the history of public relations in the United States (Brunner, 2006; also as cited in Hidden figures in public relations, May 4, 2017).

As reviewed in Chapter One, now many organizations have recognized the need to diversify their employee base and leadership team. Therefore, organizations have started making efforts in developing deliberate diversity and inclusion strategies. However, a most recent industry report states women still make up less than half of the executive leadership positions in large public relations...

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