‘Cuse Chronicles By A CEO – Here Come the Guys

Phil Nardone

Last week during my commute to Syracuse (Newhouse flies me in/out once per week), I found myself engrossed in an article from USA Today which discussed how across the globe, men dramatically outnumber women on the boards of public companies. According to the article, in the U.S., women hold only 19.2% of S&P 500 company board seats – and that’s one of the larger percentages.

I live in a world where in my industry – Public Relations – the complete opposite is true. Walk the halls of any PR firm and you’ll see women out-number men two-to-one. In fact, in some firms, there is not a man employed. Certainly at the senior level that's not the case. And, if I dig into our largest practice area (tech PR) there are an infinite number of articles written about how men far outnumber women in tech leadership positions with those women who are in leadership positions offering insights to women who also hope to break the glass ceiling. Case in point, the day after I read the article in USA Today, I stumbled upon this article in Fortune which outlines seven ways women can break into the industry.

As today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’ve been thinking a lot on the topic of diversity, specifically how it relates to the PR industry. As PAN staffer, Gaby Berkman so perfectly pointed out in her blog post last week in prSPEAK, PR is no stranger to the diversity struggle. Unlike the tech industry, which is a traditionally male dominated field, the PR industry is known for being female dominated.

Despite this fact, I have noticed a change – not only here at PAN but also in my classes at Newhouse. Since I started teaching this capstone class, it’s become a habit of mine to check the roster to see how many males students I'll be teaching. This year, I almost fell off my chair when I saw that a third of my students were MALES. This is a huge improvement and signifies an interesting trend of what’s coming for our industry: more males. To provide some perspective, during one of my earlier years of teaching this capstone class, I had one male between both sessions. That’s right just one out of 30+ something students.

It’s not as surprising to see males in leadership positions in the PR industry. But on the other of the spectrum I have been in numerous conversations with my colleagues at Newhouse about “where are all the guys?” I asked some of the gents in my class this past week, why they chose PR as a major? I got everything from, I started in Broadcast Journalism and didn't like it to it's the best place to meet girls. The best answer to me was about the integration of digital into the PR industry enticing two of guys in my class to join in. As I mentioned in a previous post, being a successful PR guy or gal means so much more than just having savvy media relations. It’s about being an analytical thinker with a highly creative, data-driven mind. With the recent rise of social media, clients want teams who are well-versed in Twitter and Google Analytics and have the abilities to improve, manage and leverage their social media channels. These types of professions tend to be of more interest to men and thus are part of the reason why I believe there soon will be many more guys walking the halls of PR agencies – certainly a major reason why more of looking to PR as a major!

At PAN, I like to think that we’ve been leading the charge on this trend for some time now. We have three male PR VPs, all touching the different practice areas we work in – healthcare, technology and consumer. In a few weeks, I’ll be discussing the topic of diversity with my capstone students and I look forward to hearing more from them on this subject. How can our industry, not only attract more men, but African American or Hispanic men and women? What do they think has changed over the past five years?

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