Gender and Salary in the U.S. and PR Workplace

Unlike with people of color in public relations, women are over-represented; like people of color, regardless of gender, they are underpaid and under-represented in executive roles.

The public relations industry traditionally has been made up of whites — predominantly white women — from affluent backgrounds, Angela Chitkara (2018) states.

Women, who are 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, make up 70 percent of the public relations workforce but only 30 percent of executives.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that women comprise 63.6 percent of public relations specialists and 71.4 percent public relations/fundraising managers in 2019.

Similar to the findings above, the 2017 Global Women in PR Survey “revealed that although women represent two-thirds of the global PR industry, 78 percent of the CEOs in the top 30 PR agencies worldwide are men and that they also occupy 62 percent of seats at the PR boardroom table.”

Although most gender issues focus on women’s low salaries and lack of leadership positions in the public relations profession, Donnalyn Pompper and Taejin Jung (2013) studied men working in the female-dominated profession. The men “report negative effects of gender-minority status at entry-and mid-levels and worry about a future when women will replace them at public relations’ highest management levels” (p. 1).


The gender balance is improving among executives in the 10 largest public relations firms in the U.S., PR Week reported in 2020. Women run 43.2 percent of those offices across the globe, and three of the 10 have more than 50 percent female leadership. Additionally, the PRWeek/PR Talent 2020 Salary Survey points out that 39 percent of respondents saw more women hired in the corporate-suite levels of their organizations.

Despite these gains, men still hold more executive roles in public relations and earn more than women. White males earned $6,072 more per year than white females and $15,374 more than non-white females, with Latinas/Hispanic women faring the worst, PRovoke Media reported in 2017. Although men still outearn women in the field, the PRWeek/PR Talent 2020 Salary Survey reported that pay for women overall increased by $8,000 between 2019 and 2020. 

Equal pay continues to be an issue nationwide and in the public relations industry.

2020 U.S. Census Bureau figures show that women earn 81.6 cents to every $1 that a man makes. Figures based on Census data further show a wider gender gap for some women of color who hold full-time, year-round jobs. Black women earn 62 cents, while Native American women make 57 cents and Latinas 54 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

To address these gender salary issues, the PR Council, which consists of over 110 of the top communications firms in the U.S., approved a pay equity statement in 2018. In the statement, the Council encourages its members to “adopt policies that ensure fair pay for all PR professionals and to utilize consistent criteria when determining initial and subsequent compensation decisions.”

Next Page: Diversity in the UK and PR Workplace