Study: Gender Equality Still a Key Concern in PR, Comms

It’s been five years since Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” sparked a movement to encourage and inspire women to fight for gender equality both in and out of the office. The most gifted book for female college graduates in 2013, the work examines why women’s progress in leadership roles has lagged throughout history and what they (read: we) can do to change its trajectory. The book spurred action, tapping into an underlying dissatisfaction with treatment of women in the workplace and driving a new wave of feminism.
And it’s working. More than 35,000 women belong to “Lean In” groups in over 160 countries, and 85 percent of them credit the organization with a positive change in their life. Similar industry-specific organizations help to drive equity. In communications and PR, New York Women in Communications and the Association for Women in Communications stand out.
In finance, where female representation is even lower, there are numerous organizations: The Women’s Bond Club, 100 Women in Finance, Ellevate and The 30% Club each champion gender equality and provide members support in order to affect change. We ourselves are hosting a women’s panel next month about how four prominent women in finance progressed in their careers. And the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index compiles data on companies across numerous sectors, so investors can put their money where their ethics are, and invest in companies that champion gender issues that matter to them.
But is it enough? A recent report from PR Week says definitely not. The publication’s 2018 PRWeek/Bloom, Gross & Associates Salary Survey looks at the median salary across the industry—$88,000 for women and $123,000 for men. The study also found that women with five or more years’ experience also reported lower compensation than men with the same experience: $100,000 compared to $135,000. That’s just 72 cents on the dollar.
Recent legislation across the U.S. aims to combat that by banning salary history questions for men and women alike. But experts fear the policy may only perpetuate the problem. Bloom, Gross & Associates told PRWeek that companies fear the ban—which is already in effect in New York City, California and Delaware—could continually put men in higher earning positions, as they aren’t obligated to report their income. Thus when businesses negotiate salaries, they have no point of reference to ensure they’re breaking the pay gap cycle, instead of fueling it.
We’re fortunate that women of Vested are supported and embraced. But it’s more than just treating women “fairly,” or celebrating International Women’s Day. Vested was co-founded by President Binna Kim, who was pregnant during the company’s inception and just gave birth to another future female leader. Fellow co-founder and COO Ishviene Arora is a fierce champion of her female colleagues and a mother herself.
Where some studies—such as this one released today by theSkimm, Vanity Fair’s The Hive, and SurveyMonkey—indicate that having women in leadership positions is the key to driving equality throughout organizations, we’re flush with female leadership male leaders that value balance.
It’s had a strong effect on our culture. With three co-founders that are also parents, our leadership sets an example of work-life balance in all its forms. As a young company, we’re still formalizing our parental leave policy, but plan to provide about 12 weeks. We also love when mini-mes visit the office. They help bring smiles and drive creativity. They serve as a reminder of our why. Indeed, they even helped design our newest office!
But work-life balance comes in many forms, and not all “life” involves human babies. Our office also plays host to furbabies, like my own pup Panda, but understands that diaper changing and breastfeeding doesn’t stop upon a mother’s return to work. Our office—while filled with thought-provoking conversations and creative minds—also sees its fair share of puppy play sessions or cartoon marathons. It’s part of why Vested also offers unlimited vacation, sick and mental health days; and a paid three-month sabbatical every four years. As Dan laid out when Vested was founded, we believe that to attract and retain the best talent, we have to share the most. That means providing qualitative perks, but also quantitative.
The team understands the financial limitations women face, and aims to rectify them. Vested makes a conscientious effort to pay better than the industry average. And we have a very transparent bonus structure that’s tied to quantifiable measures rather than feelings or politics. Further still, we also make every full-time employee a dividend-yielding shareholder in the business and just launched a profit sharing program. These funds are invested into employees’ 401(k)s—a generous bonus in and of itself, but especially important when you consider than women (generally) make less and live longer, so thus need more saved for retirement.

We believe that Vested is ahead of the gender equality curve—particularly relative to the results from the PR Week study. But there’s still more to do.
In honor of National Equal Pay Day, we’re calling for the PR industry to step up. Largely a female-dominated industry, we have no excuse. As Jennifer Risi, Head of North America Media Relations at Ogilvy, calculated for Quartz in March, “women hold anywhere from 61% to 85% of all PR jobs, and 59% of all PR managers are female. And yet… only 30% of all global PR agencies are run by women.”
Companies and agencies need to work toward not only closing the pay disparity between men and women, but minimizing the difference in how men and women are given opportunity and privilege both in and out of work. Join us in making a pledge to offer equal pay to male and female employees, and help make public relations a leader in gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

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