PRogress SU: Diversity and Women in Public Relations dives into the diversity of the PR field

PRogress SU dives into the diversity of the PR field

A panel of PR professionals discussed major topics -- such as equality of pay and representation in the field -- and how they relate to today's PR industry.
Published: February 28, 2018

Public relations students, faculty and staff filled up every inch of the Costas Corner at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for an important cause. On Feb. 26, graduate students in the Newhouse PR program hosted and moderated PRogress SU: Diversity and Women in Public Relations. This panel is part of the Newhouse School’s ongoing efforts to promote diversity and inclusion with the help of four, experienced women in the PR field.

The panelists for the event hailed from a variety of professional backgrounds, including those from corporate, agencies, non-profit and the military sector. They included Dara Royer, Senior VP and COO at Syracuse University; Anneliese Cassalia, Public Relations Coordinator at Eric Mower + Associates; Eboni Britt, PR and Marketing Manager at Eastman Kodak Company; and Master Sgt. Angel Ford, who is responsible for communications for the New York Air National Guard.

During the event, panelists discussed topics such as pay equality, representation in the field, and women in the C-Suite. They acknowledged that even though women make up 60-to-80 percent of the PR field, only 30 percent of women hold executive level positions. Royer attributes this statistic to women’s tendencies to hold high standards for themselves. She cited a study that reported a woman will apply for a job if she meets 95 percent of its requirements, while a man would apply if he met only 65 percent of them.

“Part of the challenge is that women put themselves back,” she said. “What should we do about it? I think women need to be encouraging to other women.”

Ford, who works in a heavily male-dominated field, agreed with Royer and said, “Women should ask for encouragement, connections, and to reach out to other people.” Ford credits her connections and the support of mentors in getting her higher positions. As women, especially women of color, making their voices heard may be especially challenging in a male-dominated C-Suite industry. Cassalia, who is the only PR woman in her office, said that the experience taught her to bring a different perspective to the table.

She also advised the students, “Don’t be afraid to raise your voice because that’s what they hired you to do.”

Speaking up is also crucial when it comes to negotiating a salary. Echoing what Royer said earlier, Britt feels that women oftentimes hold themselves back.

She quipped, “When I’m negotiating, I always think, ‘Negotiate like a white man.’”

In other words, she encouraged women to recognize their own self-worth and to actively practice negotiating higher pay. One thing was clear from the packed, energetic room of the panel discussion: diversity and inclusion are key. Britt believes that having women in top positions would be a “long-term strategy,” but steps are being made to empower women and to take more control of the industry.