The discussion stemmed from a comment piece by Campaign's sister publication, PRWeek UK editor John Harrington, which addressed the subject of men’s rights in the UK PR industry, particularly in regards to parental leave and mental health struggles.
Among those responding to the piece on LinkedIn was Lawrence Davies, a freelance comms consultant with experience at the likes of Grayling, Markettiers and W Communications.
Davies shared his recent experience of gender inequality around parental leave in the PR industry compared to other sectors, writing: “I feel the pressure of being the main earner. But the thing that weighs most on my mind is missing the experiences with my daughter.”
He added: “Mums should not have to give away any leave entitlement, but I’d wholeheartedly back a campaign to give men more than two weeks,” and concluded: “By improving paternity leave across our industry, we can look after mums’ and dads’ mental health. [Children are] only this tiny once. Why can’t we invest in people across our workforce and trust they’ll pay it back in spades when they return?”
Industry figures shared supportive comments in response, with Craig Ling, vice-president at BCW Global, writing: “Well said pal. Precious and hugely important moments that should not be jeopardised because of work pressures, finances or employment policies.”
Christine Quigley, director at Grayling UK, said: “When the expectation is still that women take the vast majority of parental leave, women’s careers suffer and men miss out on important time with their families.” Angharad Kolator Baldwin, media manager at Asthma + Lung UK, agreed: “I think by improving paternity leave you’d also, as a result, improve how a woman’s role is viewed by a workplace.”
Richard Tompkins, founder of Where Eagles Dare, also commented on the LinkedIn post, writing: “The expectation and pressure on dads (most often) is vast—there is rarely the choice of more time off for kids, or if there is, it comes at a financial costs that most can’t afford—I certainly wouldn’t have had this option or taken it.”
He explained that founding his own agency allowed for more flexibility to spend time with his children, going on to say: “I fully appreciate this is a tricky subject because men, and white middle class men in particular, are often the enemy or historical problem.
“But speaking as one of those, albeit one without a degree that grew up in an underprivileged area, it would be nice to be able to challenge norms in our sector (and others) without fear of being slapped back down with the rather lazy retort of ‘you’re a white bloke, you’ve got it better than most’.”
‘Everyone needs support’
In response to a post from Harrington on LinkedIn, further messages of support from industry figures were shared.
“Passionate people championing and advocating for improvements in our industry and the people working in it are a good thing,” wrote Ondine Whittington, president of Golin and Virgo Health London.
“Everyone needs support,” commented Gill Munro, a PR career development coach. “Loneliness is a common theme among men I speak to, and the shift to hybrid or remote working exacerbates that. It’s so important to talk about these issues for men, too.”
“Gender biases impact everyone,” wrote Kate Stevens, president of Europe at AxiCom, elaborating: “We’re still here trying to make people realise that the same sexism that hurts women also hurts men and that we can only overcome bias by working together.”
Katy Stolliday, co-founder and chief client officer at Blurred, stated that her agency offers gender-neutral maternity and paternity leave, saying: “Yes it’s tricky and places extra financial burden on the business, but it’s the right thing to do and more people should offer it.”
Meanwhile, Joe Mackay-Sinclair, founder and chief executive of The Romans, wrote: “I’ll purchase PRLads.com.”
‘Do men need their own lobby group?’
However, some comms professionals disagreed with the suggestions. Sarah Jones, international communications director at Epic Games said: “These are all huge generalisations… but, because historically/back in the day press secretaries were women, PR overall is still seen as a more ‘feminine’ job. If we as comms/PR professionals are going to do authentic and impactful work for all audiences, we need way more men in junior/support roles.
“This is separate to solving the issue of there being so many more men in leadership roles in comms versus women—that’s largely down to things like issues with parental leave.”
However, she added: “I would be fully supportive of men having a separate Men in PR group.”
Niki Goddard, director at Antidote Communications, disagreed with the idea of a Men in PR group. She argued that although PR is a female-dominated industry, women are paid less than their male peers and that men hold a large number of senior positions.
She said: “I guess I would consider that men have had—and still have—the opportunity to lead on driving equity in the sector. But, for whatever reason, they don’t choose to. The cynic in me says they haven’t bothered because female-gender equality has been high on the media agenda, so the effort has been focused on the appearance of change there (I say appearance because frankly paying women an equal salary could be achieved if you’re serious about equality).
“So, do men need their own lobby group? I’d say no. Women have called for better paternity support for years—look at the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign. Why not engage via existing initiatives? I think the point has been missed as to why groups like Women in PR exist. The same point has been missed with other campaigns to support minority groups on a more general basis. These groups call for equity —that means those in power (typically men) will also benefit. Everyone gets something out of an equal society!”
In response to Goddard, April Hogan, director at Here Be Dragons added: “It’s difficult to see why men would need a steering group when they still earn more than us and hold most of the senior positions. Also, it’s not about having a male vs female divide—if everyone works together on bigger issues like burnout, equal pay and parental leave/childcare we all benefit!”
Sam Holl, senior director for brand and reputation at MHP Group asked: “Would it really be such a bad thing and can’t the two groups co-exist?”
Holl continued: “I thought John Harrington’s piece was excellent in that it didn’t lose sight of the fact there are far more issues that disproportionately and unfairly impact women in PR. But there are also specific nuances within the industry that impact men and fathers in different ways. Can’t there be a specific forum for those to be discussed?
“More than anything, ‘Men In PR’, ‘PR Dads’—or whatever—would be an additional community within which to tackle issues impacting women, when men are the cause.”