Siobhan Holt
Feb 2, 2023

Ageism almost as common as gender discrimination for women in PR: survey

More than one in two female PR professionals (53%) claim to have faced discrimination in the workplace, which includes prejudice based on age and gender, a new global survey shows.

Ageism almost as common as gender discrimination for women in PR: survey

According to the Global Women in PR (GWPR) 2022 Annual Index, 27 per cent of female PR professionals said they had experienced gender discrimination, closely followed by age discrimination at 23 per cent.

The GWPR report found discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, disability, religion and sexual orientation was experienced by five per cent of respondents or fewer.

The report surveyed 437 women working in PR and communications in 35 countries. and covered flexible working, the barriers to women reaching the boardroom, the career impact of being a parent and discrimination in the workplace.

Two-thirds of the women surveyed were at director level and half of the respondents had children. There was an equal split between women working in an agency and in-house.The report found that two-thirds of women currently working in PR agencies could not see themselves being there beyond the age of 50. By contrast, 56 per cent of in-house PRs plan to stay in the same sector of the comms industry.fewer.


For those facing discrimination, the major impact on their career was being overlooked for a promotion or pay rise (53 per cent). Confidence and well-being were also badly affected (46 per cent). 

Of the PR professionals surveyed, 62 per cent said their companies had diversity and inclusion policies in place, rising to 74 per cent among those working in-house.

Gender equality was the most commonly set target by companies, at 62 per cent, but only 37 per cent set age targets in their policies. This figure is much lower than disability (54 per cent) and sexual orientation (51 per cent).

Commenting on the findings, Angela Oakes, co-founder of GWPR, said: “Ageism is clearly a real problem in the PR industry. We pay lip service to wanting a diverse workforce, but the reality is very different. We also have a major issue around retaining talent and this surely can’t help.”

Oakes argues the way to reverse the trend is to offer flexible working. She explained: “We think of childcare as a major issue for women in relation to career progression and work-life balance, but the other responsibility that comes with age is caring for elderly parents. In addition, employers need to change their recruitment policies. Many middle-aged women don’t get beyond stage one of the recruitment process.”

In 2022, 92 per cent of PR women were working flexibly and remote working, in particular, has seen a sharp increase, growing by 35 per cent since 2020. Over the next 12 months, women working in PR say they expect to be working remotely 2.8 days a week.

The report found that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way women work in PR, with 92 per cent working flexible hours and 81 per cent working remotely.

However, gender equality in the boardroom remains elusive. Despite the industry being two-thirds female, in the boardroom these figures are reversed, according to the data.

The report concluded that organisations still need to do more in terms of D&I policies and training, with only one-third of the companies surveyed including age targets in their policies.


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