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Influence of Feminization in Public Relations field

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2847 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Public relations as a communication functions of management through which organization adapt to, alter, or maintain their environment for the purpose of achieving organization goals. Public relations in Malaysia began after World War II, the purpose of the public relation in the early years was characterized to government run. Then after, government took initiative the help of the public relations to create a shared values and common wills among its different ethnic groups to build up a national identity among its citizens (Culbertson, 1996). Throughout all these years, campaigns have been carrying out to promote the symbols of national culture with different ethnic groups with the help of public relations. Besides that, corporate group began to see the importance of the public relations where they help to disseminate the message to their audience. At such, it poses the dramatic growth of public relations in the country.

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According to Institute of Public Relations Singapore, statistics compiled by the productivity and Standards Board from 1995 – 2001 showed that there are around 70 PR companies employing about 500 professionals in the field of public relations in Singapore (IPRS, n.d.). On the other hand, Institute of Public Relation Malaysia also has played a significant role in the training and development of more than 5,000 Malaysian in preparing and qualifying them for a career in public relations. (IPRM, 2009). Herewith, the growth of public relations industry also increased the number of female work in the field.

Women have entered public relations field at a much faster rate than men over the last two decades. This dramatic change has been transformed the public relations field to a female-dominated field. In 1983, women were 50.1 percent of the total of public relations workforce, a decade later the figures increased to 66.3 percent. By 2000, the percentage had reached at about 70 percent, where it remains today (Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). Due to the feminization in the field, there are issues argue on the gender inequality influence job performance and job satisfaction of female public relations practitioners.

Studies of the field showed that female public relations practitioners are facing many difficulties in the work place such as gender discrimination, gender inequality of the job responsibilities, glass ceiling and etc due to the influence of feminization in the field. For example, the case of Malaysia Airline System (MAS) (Bhatt, 2005) which happened in the year 2005 where a fight stewardess who had been working for MAS for 11 years is terminated by MAS due to the reason that she is pregnant as the management think that her pregnancy will influence her job performance. Pregnancy is a normal healthy physical condition that many women experienced, and is definitely not an excuse to claim that it will affect the productivity of a female worker.

Then, another interesting case was the Dekker case (Bhatt, 2005) where a applicant for a job, Mrs. Dekker a Dutchwomen, was found to be the most qualified applicant at the job interview and was recommended for hiring by the hiring committee. As she was three month pregnant at the time, she was not given the job. ‘Feminist theory’ explain that the nature gender inequality, where women treated differently by our society, and that women have frequently and systematically been unable to participate fully in all social arenas and institutions (Lee, 1997) where this can be apply in this phenomenon.

Besides that, in the Velvet Ghetto study supports the findings of researchers in SanDiego that women are increasingly filling the role of communication “technicians” rather than managers. (Velvet ghetto summary report, 1986)

Although the ideas of feminism and equal opportunities are being emphasize in today society and government introduce the ‘One Malaysia’ concept is also mainly explain that everyone is equal and reserve equal opportunities but there is still disparity of the gender issue in the field. This unhealthy phenomenon is causing job dissatisfaction among the female public relations practitioners where at the end it might influence the organization performance as well. Besides that, studies showed that undergraduate practitioners are uncertain about this issue.

Therefore, the objective of the research is to identify the trends, roles, position of women in the public relations field and how their roles being distinguish from the men in the field to examine whether the phenomenon of feminization will influence the job performance of female practitioners and also explore the perception of the female practitioners toward gender different in their working practice and to find out whether they are treated fairly thus their job satisfaction toward the issue. The findings will suggest that the education of public relations students toward gender challenges in the field must not only starts after graduation but undergraduate, and ways to overcome these challenges. In the research, the researcher aims to understand the reason to this phenomenon and how the working female public relations practitioners perceive the issue. For example, the trend in leadership of the managerial position in public relations agencies.


Does gender differences in the field influences job performance?

What are the consequences of practitioners’ perceived this phenomenon and job satisfaction?


Velvet Ghetto

Nowadays, a feminization trend for mass media and communications has occurred in public relations, about 70 percent of today’s practitioners are women, and this has created a gender imbalance in many departments and public relations firms. Besides that, such imbalance phenomenon is not a healthy workplace situation. The major reason for this is that more women are in the educational pipeline. Studies show that for every 50 women who graduate, only 37 men do (Wilcox & Cameron, 2009).There are few reason explain the this phenomenon, where women find more welcoming environment in public relations and see more opportunities for advancement than in other communications fields, such as news-paper work or journalism.

Velvet Ghetto was being discovered in 1980’s and this concept is emphasizing on the feminization in the public relations industry. This feminization can be explained as the women had dominated the employment in the PR field and this profession had slowly turned from male-dominated to female-dominated.

The term of Velvet Ghetto is named after a Business Week article (1978) where it speculated that the public relations field is always a safe place for the women to gain affirmative action goals or policies in this industry and this has result more and more women tend to involve themselves in this profession. Besides, the concept of Velvet Ghetto also proposed that people got the perception where public relations field is suitable for women in the sense of both appearance, practice and the women tend to have characteristics such as sensitivity towards audience and better communication in this field. Thus, this has undoubtedly created an influx of feminization to the PR industry.

Although the public relations industry continues to be female-dominated, yet there is salary and status discrepancy between the men and the women in this industry where this is one of the issue being discuss in Velvet Ghetto concept. Women are constantly paid less than men and are more unlikely to be promoted in the top management level in the public relations industry or they will often implement both technical and managerial tasks even they are being designated as “managers” (Toth & Grunig, 1993, The Missing Story of Women in PR).

Feminist Theory

Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into a more theoretical discussion and it is being designate to study the women’s social roles in a variety of fields in the society. The theory also being considered as an outgrowth of the general movement to empower women worldwide and it has the belief where there is inequality between males and females in the social, economic and political aspects. It does focus in examining the gender inequality which still continue to exist in the society nowadays and the feminist tend to promote the women’s rights and issues in a various fields as it believe that women should enjoy the same rights and given equal opportunity, resources as men in the society.

The issue of gender inequality that being discussed in feminist theory can be seen in the Velvet Ghetto concept. According to Velvet Ghetto, loads of job opportunities were given to women in public relations filed and undoubtedly women have dominated the public relations field apparently but there is an extremely low rate where power positions or top management pose are given to women.

Salaries Gap, Leadership Perception

Aldoory & Toth (2002) stated that women has making up of 70 percent in the public relations field but there are only 20 percent of the management pose or leadership roles given to them as there is a perception where women is not tally for the top management pose compare to men although they do have many opportunities in the field. This scenario has undoubtedly portrayed the gender inequality in the feminist theory.

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Women are always the victims of sexual bias and their naturally born feminine characteristics tend to portray them as a weak one compare to men. Although the public relations industry provide many women become of the part for this profession but they are not being granted of any chance to turn into any kind of threat to men when both the gender race for top management jobs. This has lead to the discrimination against women’s opportunities for advancement in public relations field when they attempt to strike for the top management pose. In public relations industry, women are not perceived as good managers and they are being placed in the low position for example technician, pr editor and etc. Placing the women into these positions has presents an image of diversity of remuneration between men and women since men are always given the priority to hold most senior positions in the field. The industry has clarified that women is always the most nurturing one at home and most of them are not willing to sacrifice work over family demands. Besides, women do not have enough capability to handle both family and managerial work at the same time and they might be struggling to maintain work-life balance. Besides, the field sometime tends to undermine the women’s contribution to the field’s growth as there is thinking where women’s contribution in the managerial roles will not be strategic enough compare to men. All these have leaded them to work in subordinate roles instead of top managerial roles.

Besides, there is also salary disparity among the men and women in the public relations field. In the studies of The Three Paradoxes: Working Women in Singapore (Lee, Campbell & Chia ,1999) showed that majority of the women in public relation earn less money compare to male practitioners. Women tend to get diminish in salary in the field compare to men as their ability and capabilities is being doubt to command top salary or either it’s an act of sex discrimination in the public relations field. With the number of women is the field, the earning of men compare to women in the field are found to be higher where male are predominately in the sales occupation and women are more in clerical occupations. National statistics, conducted by the U.S Department of Labor, show that women in all occupations earn about 76cents for every 1$ earned by a man (Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). This phenomenon has seen across the Asia countries too , in Singapore the study conducted by the Graduates Employment Survey in the late 1980s and the early 1990s showed that female graduates earned salaries approximately 25 percents lower than the male graduates despite similar qualification (Morimoto & Wrigley ,2003). This also suggests that the occupation earnings are affected by the number of women in the field.

Even though women’s participation in the labor force has increased tremendously all around the world, men does make an importance difference in explaining the salaries gap and also the occupation distribution of women. In another study by Chapman and Harding (1986) on wage differentials in Peninsular Malaysia reveals that female’s tendency to be crowded in low-paying job is regarded as one of the prime factors for their lower average wage. In other words, the high number of women in the field has a negative effect in salaries.

Besides that, statistics and survey also show that that are fewer women than men involved in the managerial roles (Lee et al., 1999). As in Malaysia and Singapore, the rapid growth of the economic provided more enrollment of female into the work force but most of the female held low-paying positions such as manufacturing jobs. (Morimoto et al, 2003)

Glass Ceiling

‘Glass ceiling’ refer to the situation where the advancement for an employee in the organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination. According to the previous study on the issue of gender discrimination (Lee et al., 1999) most female practitioners in the field happen to be get lower chance to take part in management position due to the phenomenon of ‘glass ceiling’ (Lee et al., 1999). Thus, the equality for women is judged from the comparison with a male standard or is it a norm in certain organization.

Throughout all the studies have been conducted regarding this issue, some researchers claimed that female is more familiar to the front line and administration task like copywriting, receptionist and etc (Lee et al., 1999). Besides, some agencies simply hired public relation practitioners was to meet the quota of female workers. The idea was that a company could have a vice president of public relations as ‘window dressing’ without giving her any real management authority (Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). ‘Role congruity theory’ explains the prejudice toward female leaders proposes that perceived incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles (Eagly & Karan, 2002), in this phenomenon, role incongruity theory can be applied here. Therefore, it is important to take further steps into understand this phenomenon.

Public Relations and Job Satisfaction

Scholars consistently focus on the job satisfaction among public relation practitioners to advocate the value and status of public relations as a unique profession. In the study of Shin,Mckee,Nayman,& Lattimore (1975) they found that public relations practitioners are more satisfied with professional jobs rather than craft jobs such as message production through publicity. The feeling of job dissatisfaction might occur when a person is treated unequally in their workplace such as the phenomenon of glass ceiling. Therefore, this issue should look into seriously to reduce the damage that might cause to the organization or the practitioners. Broom and Dozier (1989), in their role study, found that practitioners taking on managerial roles are more satisfied with their job and that the level of participation in the decision making process is a link between managerial roles and job satisfaction. In addition, according to Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation, a human being’s highest need is self-fulfillment, where this is the final stage in which people want to achieve throughout their career. On the other words, if female public relations practitioners are limited in the advancement of her career this might reduce her job satisfaction and motivation toward her job. Therefore it is important to understand more regarding on this issue.

Those studies indicated that a general relationship between job satisfaction and their profession which showed that when a person in a higher position would more satisfied with their profession. Although women appear to be dominated the public relations field yet we can see that there is gender inequality toward leadership perception in this industry. As feminist theory advocate that women should have the same right as men and the promotion of gender equality, women should take step forward and clarify what they should have as the men so that women can take a giant leap into equal opportunities and pay in the public relations industry.

Velvet Ghetto


Gender Discrimination

Feminist Theory

Job Satisfaction


Salaries gap and Leadership Perception

Glass Ceiling


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