Okay, I admit this headline is a little sensational. But I got my daily PRSA Issues and Trends e-mail and I wasn’t too surprised to read that an annual census by Catalyst, a women’s advocacy group, shows that women only held 16.4 percent of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies in 2005.
This was not particularly surprising to me.
What really caught my eye though was this result, which was buried a little bit lower in the report (page 2):
Women in Line, Staff, and Clout Positions
Women were almost two and one-half times as likely to hold staff positions (71 percent) as they were to hold line positions. (Read the full census results-pdf and methodology)
The Associated Press article about the Catalyst census interpreted these data as follows:
“Part of what's holding women back is their place in their companies, according to the survey [census]. Seventy-one percent of women in the survey held staff positions, in areas such as human resources and public relations that are viewed as having only indirect impact on a company's financial results. Only 29 percent held line positions, in areas such as sales and operations where job holders have profit and loss responsibility. In contrast 52 percent of the in the survey held staff positions, while 48 percent held line positions.”
Emphasis is mine.
Okay, I realize that it might seem that I am splitting hairs. So, before I loose my male audience, this opinion about public relations hurts you too!
The “feminization” of the PR profession is something that needs reconstructed, or PR will become irrelevant. It is time that we tie the results that we can bring to the bottom line, by using research and spelling out objectives for our public relations programs that are tied to business outcomes (like sales or organizational goals), rather than tactical outputs (like media coverage).
What do you think? How can the profession gain a reputation for adding to the outcomes that corporations and organizations are aiming to achieve? How can public relations add stakeholder and/or shareholder value?
Aside: If you are wondering what I think of the veracity of the census, I am pretty comfortable with it since it is a “counting of heads,” and mainly shows trends. It is true that Catalyst has a vested interest in showing that there is a crisis here. Truth is, results show that women have made very slight gains in top executive positions.