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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 Five PR Women’s Leadership Development and Participation Opportunities



PR Women’s Leadership Development and Participation Opportunities


We agree that the purpose of studying leadership is to enable the development of leaders to enhance effective leadership practice. Previous research on leadership development suggests that some best-practice organizations (e.g. Johnson & Johnson, GE) view leadership development as a critical way to increase competitive advantage and support organizational strategies (Fulmer & Glodsmith, 2001). Similarly, one of the most important factors to facilitate the advancement of the public relations profession is to enable the development of highly qualified professionals who will become future leaders not only in the organization but also for the profession.

Are women capable to lead? This is an age-old question deeply rooted in gender-based stereotypes when discussing the development of leaders (e.g. Catalyst, 2003; Ely & Rhode, 2010; Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly & Marks, 2000). We fully acknowledge that women (and men) may start with different levels of inherited leadership capabilities, especially at the individual level of personal attributes or psychological perspectives (e.g. Chatman & Kennedy, 2010). At the same time, we also strongly believe that leadership skills can be learned and leadership competency can be improved especially in the public relations profession, as it is such a dynamic profession experiencing rapid development at an ever-fast changing pace and under the influence of media, cultural, and social changes (Servaes, 2012).

Therefore, this chapter focuses on investigating female professionals’ perceptions on leadership development and leadership participation opportunities based on...

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