Promoting Say Equality: The Role of PR in Closing the Gender Say Gap

This is the Failure Issue of The Measurement Advisor, and so it is fitting that this guest post by Claire Mason points out one of the biggest fails of the public relations and measurement industries: Why is it that women are so under-represented as leaders and authority figures?

Claire, Founder and CEO of Man Bites Dog, is quite an outspoken authority figure herself. Scroll down a bit and you can watch her speaking to the House of Commons. To learn more about what Man Bites Dog has been doing to raise awareness of the Gender Say Gap and how to close it, click here. This post was first published in the PRCA Blog.

We’ve celebrated 100 years of the women’s vote, we have a powerful legacy of #MeToo, and we have witnessed the rather shocking results of mandatory Gender Pay Gap reporting. Gender equality is clearly having a moment.

But these critical milestones are just symptoms of a much bigger issue: the ‘Gender Say Gap’, which is the invisibility of women and other diverse groups in business and in public life. Society has failed to acknowledge a quiet revolution. For the last decade women have outnumbered men in high-status professions, and women are more likely to hold a degree with nearly 100,000 more women than men enrolling in universities in 2018.

We are disproportionately the experts in the room, so why aren’t we hearing from female authorities?

The absence of women’s voices, ideas and insights is the elephant in every room:

  • from the newsroom, where women write and feature in just a fraction of the news;
  • to the conference room, where male speakers outnumber women 4-1 and male pannelists outnumber women 2-1 (4-1 in tech and venture capital)
  • to the Boardroom where we are still not achieving the frankly modest target of 30% women on boards
  • and the Director’s chair in advertising and in the movies (where we are just one in ten)

There is a gaping diversity disparity between what corporates are telling us about diversity and inclusion in terms of their strategy, their culture and their talent pipeline – and what they are showing us in the lack of diversity in the executives and subject matter experts they put forward to represent them.

And this invisibility really matters. Because women can’t be what we can’t see. 8 out of 10 UK high school students can’t name a famous woman working in technology- is that because we don’t exist or because of the Gender Say Gap?

Our invisibility translates into women being less than one in five of the technologists shaping our world and less than one in ten of its leaders. It’s the same in science, engineering and the built environment. We might laugh off irritations like lowering our tone to make voice assistants like Alexa work, because the AI was trained on male voices, but a man-made world is a serious business. Caroline Criado Perez’s new book Invisible Women proves that assuming a white man is the default human is literally killing us – because items from heart drugs to cars are only safety tested on men.

We need a diversity of ideas to solve the existential challenges facing people and the planet.We have a tremendous opportunity right now to unleash the power of diverse thinkers and speakers for the benefit of their organisation and society.

Consider the thinkers and speakers for your organisation. Do they reflect your client base? Do they reflect your workforce and the future workforce you want to recruit? Us marketers have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate change right now by making diverse experts more visible.

Identify the Gender Say Gap and champion change

  1. Audit the gap
    Whether you are a consultant or part of an in-house team, assess the corporate brand, marketing and PR footprint of an organisation to compare the diversity of its public profile with the diversity of the workforce and client base. You can review corporate profiles, separately from expert profiles. Benchmark the Gender Say Gap and diversity ratios against competitors and aspirational peers.
  2. Create an expert development programme
    You can create a development programme to build the confidence and capability of experts from a range of diverse groups and inspire them to step forward as brand ambassadors for your agency or client company. They can help tackle the root causes of the Gender Say Gap and train the next generation of thinkers and spokespeople to be powerful ambassadors for your organisation and diverse speakers everywhere.
  3. Be bold
    Companies can set business and brand targets to narrow their Gender Say Gap, and ensure the diversity agenda is sponsored at the highest level. And if you’re agency side, you can set the goal of closing the Gender Say Gap and championing diversity in all your client communications.
  4. Empower talent within the marketing and corporate communications team
    There are many senior women within marketing and public relations across all industries whose capabilities as expert spokespeople on a range of sectors are often overlooked. Next time you struggle to find a female leader for a panel or media interview, look no further than your marketing communications team – they will have a variety of subjects they can talk about in addition to PR.
  5. Say no to all-male panels – ‘manels’
    Influence and disrupt panels and conference agendas that lack diversity – and proactively offer spokespeople from diverse groups within your agency and your clients’ businesses to restore the balance. Media are becoming more self-aware and starting to analyse the diversity of their editorial subjects, their op-ed authors and the subject matter experts they are using to produce their content – many are proactively calling for more diverse experts. ∞

About Author

Claire Mason

Claire is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Man Bites Dog, the most award-winning B2B marketing and public relations consultancy in Europe.