Senior-level women in PR are being paid £10,000 less than their male counterparts.

17 Jun 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

While the gender pay gap has narrowed over the years, it is clear from a number of recent reports within the industry, our annual salary survey included, that there is still considerable inequality when it comes to what men and women earn in the field of PR and Corporate Communications.

The unavoidable truth remains that men are paid more than women in equivalent positions and this trend is more marked the higher up the industry they go. In our annual salary survey, we polled 850 professionals across a broad spectrum of sectors in the field of PR and Corporate Communications to gain an insight into their salaries and bonuses, and to ascertain their levels of satisfaction with their earnings. The respondents to the survey were 65% female and 35% male. The majority of respondents live in and around London, and work in the private sector in the main.

To determine whether our survey would show a discrepancy between the salaries earned by men and women in senior roles, we took a closer look at the responses we received regarding salaries and bonuses from male and female PR and Communications professionals in what we call ‘top management’ roles – CEOs, MDs, Board Directors and Partners in agencies along with Global Heads of Communications and Heads of Communications from in-house firms.

In an industry that has a large female bias, the findings make for a somewhat disheartening read …

What’s the difference in salaries?

Our survey found that men in senior roles in the PR and Communications industry are on average being paid a whopping £10,000 more than women in the same roles. Our results came out £1,500 higher than those of the CIPR which reported in a like-for-like job, on average, a woman is paid £8,483 less – probably due to our survey covering mainly London and its surroundings.

We may ask to what extent individual actions play a part in the seeming gender discrimination in the workplace. There are choices made by women – taking time off work to have and care for children being the most common one – that may impact their earning power. Requesting a promotion or pay rise can be scuppered by maternity leave timing and many mothers often opt to return on a part-time basis or look for flexible hours so that they can balance their priorities. These choices often lead women to being underpaid down the line and many leave the industry at this point and are replaced by men.

While it is impossible to attribute the pay gap to a result of discrimination by employers, it is still statistically proven that men crowd into high-paying sectors such as Financial PR (with Corporate PR hot on its heels) while women dominate slightly lower-paying roles in, for example, Consumer PR.

How about bonuses?

Our survey showed a shocking discrepancy between bonuses being paid to men and women in top management roles in Corporate and Financial PR.

Men in senior roles received a staggering £65,000 more in bonus than women in equivalent roles.

To anyone, it’s a jaw-dropping statistic – one that’s hard to explain. My experience in the hiring process has shown that men can be bolder when it comes to negotiation. They will stand their ground and assert themselves more to get the salary and bonus package that they want, even though they might not have done the exact job in hand. But that is not to say that there aren’t women who will negotiate well in PR – there are – however it is my view that women will request an increase, but often put a monetary value on other factors too, such as flexibility, an enjoyable place to work, the variety a role has to offer, a challenging breadth within the role, and so on. This, by no means, either explains or justifies the enormous gap in bonus payments.

Doubtless, employers may consciously or unconsciously feel it’s too risky to promote women due to the possibility of attrition rates at mid-career level. In addition, the absence of a role model could also influence why women choose to abandon efforts to secure further promotions or aim for the board. ‘Seeing is believing’. You only have to look across the industry to see the bias towards men running the agencies.

Next week, we look at the male-dominant board participation, how men and women feel about their salaries and whether there’s hope on the horizon for closing the gender pay gap.

The Works specialises in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.

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