Different Lenses: Women's Feminist and Postfeminist Perspectives in Public Relations / Diferentes Lentes sobre Perspectivas Feministas e Pós-feministas das Mulheres em Relações Públicas

Liz Yeomans, Fabiana Gondim Mariutti


Gender inequalities in public relations (PR) persist. Industry researchwithin the UK reveals a gender pay-gap, which shows significant disparities inpay between men and women (CIPR, 2015; PRCA, 2016). Feminist research, mostly undertaken in the US over the past twenty years and adopting a liberal feministperspective, has identified some of the factors that influence inequality forwomen, such as balancing career and family; while other studies examine thesocial processes that perpetuate inequalities, such as gender stereotyping, the ‘glass ceiling’ effect and the ‘friendliness trap’. Liberalfeminism is critiqued for not recognizing gender regimes. This has led to callsfor critical research to examine the underlying social processes in the PR field that influenceposition opportunities, roles, the pay-gap and discrimination. Three theoretical positions – liberal feminist, radical feminist andpostfeminist - were selected to address the following research questions, ‘How does gender influence everyday practice in public relations?’ ‘Whichfeminist perspective(s) are suggested by practitioner narratives?’ Postfeminism, used as a critical lens, potentially enables ‘multiple feminisms and femininities’ (Lewis, 2014) to be expressed. For this paper, anexploratory, qualitative pilot study involved semi-structured interviews withfour female PR practitioners in northern England. Transcripts were analyzedusing narrative analysis and reflexivity. The narratives revealed complex and sometimes contradictoryinterpretations. Therefore while three out of the four narratives showed strongliberal feminist inclinations, including a belief that women are able tocompete alongside men, two also expressed radical feminist orientations;although in line with previous research, not a desire to change the system,except on an individual level. A fourth narrative expressed ideas consistentwith postfeminism, demonstrating an apparent acceptance of gender rolesegregation in PR, and therefore no inclination to change the status quo. Finally, we offer further ways of advancing critical feminist studies inpublic relations, through research and education.


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