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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 Seven How Women in PR Define and Achieve Influence



How Women in PR Define and Achieve Influence


In recognition of the reality that leadership is about more than holding a specific title or position, we began our in-depth interviews by asking current female leaders in the field how they would define influence. Some of the most common descriptions included being a trusted adviser, practicing thought leadership, being a subject matter expert, exerting a voice that executives listen to, and gaining the respect of other leaders. Others described influence as “being able to persuade people to your point of view” or demonstrating the competency of identifying and cultivating talented young professionals. Some of the descriptions also recognized public relations’ role as a boundary spanner who raises the concerns on behalf of various stakeholders, both internally and externally. For example, a former chief communications officer for a Global 500 company said

They are the ombudsman to management on behalf of employees and on behalf of customers and constituents and stakeholders. So, the influencers are the ones facilitating dialogue, and discussion, and empathy and action. And action that makes a difference. I think influence is the leader that can look across the entire organization and bring along his and her peer group to be able to affect positive outcomes and action and leadership and problem solving.

This is consistent with previous research findings which suggest two roles for boundary spanners in public relations: information processing and external representation (Aldrich &...

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