A PR Woman’s Place is not in the CEO’s Chair 3

The May 2011 issue of PR Week, which I subscribe to, reports on the top PR agencies of 2011, and ranks the top 150 agencies by US revenue. Very happy to say that the firm we joined four years ago, Edelman, ranked #1 in the US and globally, increasing its 2010 revenues over those of 2009 by 21%. This growth in great measure came as a result of Richard Edelman’s decision to retain staff during the recession, unlike many publicly traded PR firms that had to concentrate on shareholder return on investment, so let staff go. This allowed us to leap frog over Fleishman-Hillard and grab the number one spot. Great news.

But I’m not jumping for joy. Sure I’m delighted the firm is doing well. The Vancouver office grew in a similar manner and I credit our being part of the Edelman family of businesses with that impressive growth.

No, the reason for my sad face is that the faces of all the principles of the 12 largest PR firms, with the exception of two, are men. Edelman included.

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.

In fact, six of the pictures have more than one person in them, almost always men, so if we look at who the leaders of the largest PR firms in the US are at the moment, despite PR being an industry dominated by women, we’d have two women out of 20 — accounting for 10 percent.

Women’s faces start appearing more frequently in the rankings of the next 36 companies, where annual US revenues range from a high of $78 million to a low of under $10 million — unlike the top 12 firms that are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In this category, women’s faces appear 12 times out of 36, accounting for 33% of PR leadership. Maybe women are great leaders, but only when fewer dollars are on the table.

I know the saying goes that we’ve come a long way baby, although the addition of the word “baby” probably undermines just how far we truly have come.

I’m probably old school on this one. Can’t completely let go of my 1970’s feminist past. Can’t help but notice that they’re all guys while someone else might just notice a group of handsome men.

But I also can’t help believe that women are just as talented, as smart and as driven. And the same glass ceilings that exist in corporate boardrooms across North America, exist in the PR industry as well.

I’d be interested in knowing what you think? Just the way it is? Doesn’t mean a thing? Sexual politics are dead and buried? Or….


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “A PR Woman’s Place is not in the CEO’s Chair

  • Deanna

    This is shocking information. Considering the buying power of women, who most PR firms are targeting, you would think they would be better represented in the hierarchy. But I’m hopeful that PR is just slower than most arenas in changing this archaic pattern.
    Let’s do it.

  • pragsy

    I agree with you Patty, one thing that I have always wondered is that at the entry level and mid level and while I do not have any research to say this but I share the belief that the majority of communications teams in PR agencies or even in companies comprises of women, then what happens; why is that men are the ones reigning the field? What happens to all these brilliant women who join but never make it to the top. The ans. lies I believe in the sociological build of the society, gender roles and norms certainly come in the way.

  • Mike

    Hi Patti,

    I read your “Pattism” with great interest. I am compelled to comment.

    I was fortunate enough years ago to have successfully produced some highly confidential work for your firm. I did work with some very demanding women, which I really did enjoy. I was the calm one despite all the turmoil that was thrown at me. You can only control what you can control, the rest you have to influence in a fashion that benefits all as best as possible given the circumstances at that time.

    If you were to consider another blog entry/article to follow up to this one or named this piece, “A PR Woman’s Place is in the CEO’s Chair”, and researched the growing number of women that have now made the list as CEO’s comparing it to how many women led the upcoming firms, say 15/20 years ago…it would really have been more enlightening and far more inspiring. It really only takes a few foundation clients to break that barrier. Twenty years ago, were there any women leading a PR firm in the top 12, 30, 50, 75, 150, or at any revenue level? Now there are 33% filling the $78 -10 million space.

    You’ve come a long way…Lady(ies).