In most parts of the world, you’ll find way more women in PR than you would men. In the USA, the percentage is estimated to be as high as 73% more than men. In the UK, it’s 64%. A lot of things have been said about why this is the case with quite a few fingers pointing to Samantha Jones, the fun-loving “Sex and the City” character who glamorized PR in the popular TV show painting it to be fine dining, jet setting and exclusive access to the hottest spots about town.
The case is however staggeringly different in Nigeria.
The 2020 Nigeria PR Report by leading media and public relations company, BHM reveals that only 26 percent of practitioners in the country are women. This isn’t exactly surprising. The past 5 to 7 years may have brought us Bukky Karibi-Whyte, Bidemi Zakariyu, Elizabeth Osho, Ijeoma Balogun, Temi Ophyllia Ibekwe, and a couple of other ‘IT’ girls who are making the profession look cool but the truth is before now, there weren’t a lot of women in the industry who younger girls could model their careers after.
If you didn’t grow up in Lagos, chances are you never even knew there was something called PR, and like this writer, you’re probably still having difficulties explaining to your old folks what exactly it is you do for a living. For an industry whose job is to make companies and brands look good in the public’s eye, the PR industry pretty much sucks at doing the same for itself. As a Forbes article once put it, ‘the public relations industry does a terrible job of public relations.’
This terrible PR is the likeliest reason for the male dominance in the industry. Because how else do you explain the disparity between the number of female Mass Communication graduates and the number of female entrants into the PR industry? Mass Communications departments in Nigerian Universities are heavily dominated by female students but you’d much sooner find an undergraduate in the department tell you they’d want to go into a totally unrelated field after graduation than you would find one who wants to go into Public Relations.
There are other factors, of course. One of them being that PR is a spectacularly demanding profession. Forget Samantha Jones and all the pipe dreams that she sold us in SATC. There’s literally nothing glamorous about this career line. PR is hard work. It is late nights and early mornings. It is not having a life outside of work. It is having your nice date rudely interrupted because your client has a crisis you have to manage. It is cancelling on an important family dinner you’ve been planning for weeks. It is an endless barrage of emails and phone calls. It is practically living in your laptop. There is really nothing glamorous about this career.
And this is not to say that women are not cut out for hard work. Far from it. We’ve seen a lot of women do phenomenal work in Comms in and out of Nigeria. But the truth is, we live in a society that forces women to choose. We cannot have a career, especially a demanding one like PR, and still have a thriving love life or family. And everything is set up to make us feel like we’ve failed if we choose the former over the latter. So what happens is that a great percentage of the very few women who get into PR eventually leave for something else that would give them time to focus on “more important” things. And you can’t blame them.
Launched on Saturday July 29, Nigeria PR Report 2020 is now available for downloads on the Nigeria PR Report website, Amazon and iTunes.