So, I wrote this article with the famous scholar and PRSA’s 2008 Outstanding Educator, David Dozier, and one of our graduate students, on the impact of career interruption and child bearing on income. In non-academic terms, this means we looked at whether women taking time off from public relations work to have babies suffered in their salaries when they returned to the workforce. The short answer? Not really. Women who took time off from work came back making only $148/year less than women who had never taken time off from work. So that’s the statistic. What’s the reality?
I took six weeks off work to have my first child and six hours (yes, hours) off work to have my second child. My economic situation post-childbirth included outrageous expenses (like for diapers and other stuff that one uses then throws away!), plus priceless expenses (like a daycare provider that I would trust with my helpless infant’s life, literally). The statistics may show that taking time off to have children is a relatively cheap endeavor, judged by annual salaries; but the statistics don’t tell the whole picture.
And speaking of the whole picture, our study found that women STILL make less than men, even taking into account such factors as time off from work (for whatever reason) and years of professional experience. This gendered salary discrepancy remains in public relations, even after decades of research data, going back to before I was born. Gives a whole new meaning to “my cheap baby”! Clearly, we women have NOT come a long way.
Dr. Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR is an associate professor, School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University. She served as vice-chair of PRSA’s Work, Life and Gender Committee, 2004-2006.
Join Bey-Ling, along with Dr. David Dozier, for their co-presentation, “How Much Does My Baby Cost?: An Analysis of Gender Differences in Income, Career Interruption and Child Bearing,” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7-10 in San Diego, CA!
In this era that many consider to be “post-feminist” and “post-racist” (see the August 2009 Tyra Banks article from Critical Studies in Media Communication for a discussion about these ideas), it’s important to draw attention to continued systematic inequalities. Hats off to you and your colleagues for this research.
TBRWN raises some great questions, some of which have been addressed in prior studies. For example, women on the whole are NOT advancing as quickly in their careers as are men; this is called the glass ceiling, and it does exist in public relations (1). Prior research has shown that women tend to be public relations technicians, whereas men tend to be public relations managers; this trend has persisted for more than 30 years (2).
As for salary requirements, women in general do not ask for the same salaries as men or make the same demands (3). Prior research shows that, even as undergraduate students, women in public relations have lower salary expectations compared to their male counterparts (4). This may be the result of socialization, wherein women are not taught to be demanding.
But, the solution is more complicated than just saying, “Hey, women, ask for more money!” Some research suggests that women who ask for more money than “average” women are actually penalized for doing so (5)!
(1) Wright, D. K., Grunig, L. A., & Springston, J. K. (1991, November). Under the glass ceiling: An analysis of gender issues in American public relations, 1. The Public Relations Foundation, New York City.
(2) Toth, E. L., Serini, S. A., Wright, D. K., & Emig, A. (1998). Trends in public relations roles: 1990-1995. Public Relations Review, 24, 145-163.
(3) Joy, L. (2004). Women don’t ask: Negotiation and the gender divide. Feminist Economics, 10(3), 125.
(4) Sha, B.-L., & Toth, E. L. (2005). Future professionals’ perceptions of work, life, and gender issues in public relations. Public Relations Review, 31, 93-100.
(5) Wade, M. (2001). Women and salary negotiation: The costs of self-advocacy. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25, 65-76.
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