PR’s Unjust Wage Gap: Powerful Advice From 4 Fearless Women

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Women account for nearly 85 percent of the public relations workforce, yet 80 percent of top management positions are held by men. That’s kind of mind-blowing, right?

For public relations workers with under five years of experience, men take home $5,500 more annually, and the gap increases to $42,000 per year for people with over five years of experience in the field.

The Public Relations Society of America recognizes the imbalance, which is why the Buffalo/Niagara chapter held a panel on Nov. 4, 2015, at 8 a.m. at the Every Person Influences Children center in Buffalo to address these issues head on. The panel, “Gender and the Glass Ceiling: Attaining a Better Salary, Job and Career,” addressed methods of negotiating a higher salary, securing a promotion, navigating gender-biased office politics and more.

The panel, which was moderated by Therese Hickok Fuerst, vice president of Pantano & Associates, included:

  • Victoria Hong, director of corporate communication for Delaware North
  • Katie Krawczyk, president and communications and marketing director of 19 IDEAS and director of communications for You and Who
  • Andrea Todaro, president of Innovative Placements


As young women new to the workforce, my colleague Sarah Miller and I were able to learn a lot from these four fearless Buffalo professionals.

Our four takeaways:

1. If you’re going to ask for a raise, know your value.
andrea todaroIf you found out your male counterpart is making more money than you are, it can be tempting to stomp into your boss’s office demanding an explanation. But that’s not enough — in fact, if you approach anyone asking for a raise this way, you’ll just look like a complainer.

“Know the worth of your job and the value you lend to the company,” Todaro says. “Just as every product has a price, every job has a market value. Also, while the performance review might seem like a logical time to ask for a raise, that’s not always the case.  Don’t wait until the time of your review to discuss how you’ve helped your company achieve its goals and objectives. In many companies, salary decisions are made before appraisals are discussed with employees, so get your request in early. Document your accomplishments in advance and come in well-prepared and rehearsed with both quantitative and qualitative results.”

It’s also a good idea to check in with websites like Glassdoor and PayScale to see what other professionals in your industry are making, and explain why you should be compensated similarly. Most importantly, it’s crucial that you approach the situation with confidence and professionalism. Even the most thought-out proposal will turn south if you come off as arrogant or unappreciative.

2. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion (but don’t BS it.)
thereseIt’s natural to want to get noticed in your workplace, but that doesn’t mean you should just head into work one day with a plan to stand out.

A great way to make a good impression organically is by voicing your opinion in meetings and discussions. A well-developed idea with valid reasons to back it up will gain respect from your colleagues and superiors, without seeming like you are trying too hard.

Hickok Fuerst warned not to try and fake it. If you don’t know about a topic, don’t pretend like you do. Your boss will see through the B.S., and you’ll lose any credibility you’ve worked hard to gain. Instead, be honest and admit that you don’t know enough about the situation to take an educated stance.

3. The change won’t happen overnight.
victoria hongWe’ve all heard the cliche saying: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. While you may have just rolled your eyes at me, there is a lot of truth to this belief. You have every right to want to be paid fairly for the work that you do, but if your only inspiration is salary, your career will only ever be “work.”

“My mother always told me to ‘Never chase the money, if you love what you do, the money will come,’” Hong says. “It was the most valuable piece of advice she’s given me.”

If you enjoy what you do, keep doing it, and work to be the best. Of course the money is important, but giving everything up right away won’t do you any good. Sometimes you need to be a little creative to get by (ex. ask mom and dad to borrow money to purchase some business outfit staples, get a roommate, cut unnecessary costs), but if you love your work and fight for your value, it’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Always communicate with your manager.
Katie KrawczykIf you feel like you’ve been discriminated against for a position you were qualified for, your first step should be a meeting with your direct manager. This will allow you to see whether you genuinely were not the best fit for the position, or if you were treated unfairly.

“You should be working with your manager regularly not just for your career goals,” Krawczyk says, “but also for personal growth and development and any conflicts that might arise in the office. While your colleagues can offer a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, your manager is the one who can help you achieve the goals you set for yourself and for your career.”

It’s also safe to stay away from discussing your hurt feelings with your coworkers, since things can easily be twisted and get back to your boss. Your manager won’t appreciate it, and in a city as small as Buffalo, you don’t want to burn any bridges.

In the case that you were discriminated against, though, you have every right to consult legal help.

Do you have any advice to help women succeed in the public relations field? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet us at @QuinlanCompany!

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