Lipstick and a tedious debate on a very important day

Lipstick and a tedious debate on a very important day
March 7, 2012 Kaz Scott

Surely it was coincidence.

With Thursday being International Women’s Day, the timing of Monday’s article in AdNews was exquisite.

PR and corporate affairs a “pink ghetto” read the headline and in the story that followed we read concerns about the “rapid feminisation” of PR and “highly feminised corporate affairs”.

The article was from a 46 page report, Trends and Issues in Australian Corporate Affairs, on behalf of communications search and recruitment firm Salt & Shein. On display for all to read was “the delicate issue of a female-dominated industry in PR and corporate affairs”.

And the reaction here at Ogilvy, Australia’s largest PR organisation: Does anyone really care that much?

No doubt the unnamed “leading and most experience senior corporate affairs professionals” gave earnest and well-meaning responses when interviewed.

We have 130 people working at the five different companies which operate separately under the Ogilvy PR Australia umbrella. Those five companies are headed by four males and a female and I suspect the gender mix throughout the organisation is around 30/70, with females in the ascendancy. But the question again is: what does it matter?

There was a time when women – and people with different coloured skin or different religions or sexuality – were not considered for certain jobs. A time when factors other than ability determined what you did and how far up the chain of command you rose.

And until I read the AdNews story and the Salt & Shein report I thought those times had long gone. One of those anonymous interviewees says: “I don’t believe gender imbalance is good for any profession. I really worry that it makes us appear to be a bit of a ‘pink ghetto’, so that we’re perhaps taken less seriously by management.”

At Ogilvy PR Australia we work for a large number of corporate organisations and my experience has been that it is the quality of advice – not the gender of the person giving that advice – that dictates the degree of seriousness with which management views us.

And when we talk to clients they really want to know just how we are responding to their needs. They want to know how we are going to be accountable for what we say we are going to do, how we can accurately measure success. They want to know that we understand integration, that we can advise them about new and emerging media channels, that we challenge them through our creativity and expertise.

They don’t want to know whether we wear lipstick!

And maybe, just maybe, the reason PR is not taken more seriously is that some in the industry seem to think “the delicate issue of a female-dominated industry in PR and corporate affairs” is important.

By Kieran Moore.