PRSA Research Study: Gender Gap Narrowing

By Wright, Donald K.; Springstein, Jeff K. | Public Relations Journal, June 1991 | Go to article overview

PRSA Research Study: Gender Gap Narrowing


Wright, Donald K., Springstein, Jeff K., Public Relations Journal


Discrimination against women is demonstrated clearly by salary levels reported by PRSA members.

The gaps show most clearly when salary is compared to years of experience in the field. But raises reported by female practitioners indicate that the salary gap is narrowing.

The issue of gender discrimination in public relations, as in any field, is an emotional one. Many women feel they are paid less opportunities for advancement.

With more and more women entering the public relations practice, this issue has become an increasingly important one. What are the differences between salaries earned by males and females? What are the differences in their roles within their organizations? How satisfied are men and women with their opportunities for advancement within the profession?

To examine the emerging role of women in America public relations, the Public Relations Society of America established a Task Force on Women in Public Relations under the direction of Kathleen Lewton, APR, vice president marketing and corporate communications, University Hospitals, Cleveland.

In cooperation with PRSA's Research Committee, this task force conducted a major research project to explore this issue of gender discrimination in public relations. Research results showed considerable evidence of discrimination against women.

Significant gap exists

Results from both the questionnaire and focus group stages of this research project show that gender discrimination exists in American public relations. (See sidebar, page 25, for those results.) With a considerable degree of statistical significance, women in the study clearly were discriminated against in terms of salary. (See table, page 23.)

The median salaries of men and women with up to five years of experience are similar, according to respondents in those categories. They range from $22,500 at one year of experience, to $31,000 at five years of experience.

At six years of experience, the men report a median salary of $40,000, and the women, $35,000. At 10 to 19 years of experience, the men report median salaries of $52,000 compared to a median of $43,000 reported by the women. These differences are all statistically significant. The gap continues at all levels of experience.

The study found evidence that the wage gap between the genders might be narrowing. Overall, women received significantly larger raises last year than did men. Women respondents report raises of more than 7%; the male respondents report raises of 6%. These differences were statistically significant. (The error level is .01.)

Geographic location was found to be an important factor with regard to both men's and women's salaries. (See table, page 23.) The highest salaries are on the East Coast, with a mean in the mid-$60,000 range, and on the West Coast, with a mean in the high-$50,000 range. The average salary in the central United States ranges from $40,000 to $50,000.

There appears to be a statistically significant salary gap based upon gender in every region of the country. These differences between men and women are the greatest in areas where ZIP codes begin with 0, 4 or 5. The greatest differences are in the region where ZIP codes begin with 0: New Jersey and the six New England states. Differences also are significantly higher than average in the central and upper Mid-western states where ZIP codes begin with 4 and 5.

The study also found that women, for the most part, were more likely to perform technician or communication skills roles such as writing, editing, creating and disseminating messages. Men were more likely to perform managerial and decision-making functions.

Women less optimistic of future

The study also examined job satisfaction and found women generally are less positive about their current job situations than men. Women also were generally less optimistic about the future with the present employers. …

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