Race and Gender in Public Relations Field

Abstract

This capstone paper examines the impact of race and gender diversity on building careers in the sphere of public relations. During the last several decades, people have experienced certain challenges and changes in their intentions to find a good job and earn a living. As a rule, the representatives of different races suffer from existing prejudice and high standards in various organizations. By evaluating the experiences of white and black women and men, this project aims to clarify if race and gender determine their possibilities to choose jobs and achieve the desired success. Twenty participants are invited to this qualitative phenomenological study that is based on open-ended interviews organized via Skype.

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Ten questions have to be posed to each participant, and their answers help to discuss the role of gender differences, racial belongings, and personal attitudes in the field of public relations. In total, a textual analysis of the data obtained from interviews shows that despite the fact that people do not talk about diversity concerns in public, many of them are concerned about their chances to get a promotion or find another job because of their gender or race.

Still, public relations remains one of the most tolerant spheres where workplace relationships are developed on diverse attitudes towards similar problems and customers. Women are defined as more sympathetic than men, and black employees have to work hard to prove their professionalism and demonstrate their competencies. This project challenges the argument that the United States has already survived racial or gender biases. In many cases, employers continue paying attention to the color of the skin or genders of employees, but public relations managers want to reduce this diversity to any possible extent.

Introduction

The practice of public relations gains recognition in today’s business world as it determines the way of how companies and people have to communicate and share information in public and via media. Compared to advertising where exposure, visual representation, and creativity matter, public relations focus on trust, correct language, and persuasion (Wynne, 2016). It is also expected that the field of public relations may be considerably changed and improved due to the recent transformation of communication channels (Neill & Lee, 2016).

However, diversity remains a problem in the workplace, and gender inequality, as well as racial biases, influences human relationships and challenges a true assessment of professional skills and abilities (McCluney, Schmitz, Hicken, & Sonnega, 2018; Stamarski & Hing, 2015). The impact of racial and gender differences among employees is an urgent topic for discussion because it is still hard to prove that these two factors may change the quality of work. Therefore, it is necessary to gather opinions, surf the web, and develop a literature review to clarify the connection between such concepts as public relations, gender, race, and productivity.

Problem Statement

Despite the technological progress and sustainable social development in the world, such issues as gender or race differences play an unfair role in the workplace. The problem is that some women or people of color are not able to find good jobs or demonstrate their qualifications to a full extent. The essence of public relations is to establish beneficial contact between different organizations and people and promote cooperation at various levels, and diversity should not be a challenge in this field.

Question Statement

How does gender and race diversity influence the success of practitioners in the sphere of public relations?

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Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the role of gender and race diversity in the field of public relations by exploring the experience of women and black people in building their careers.

Literature Review

In this section of a capstone project, the goal is to analyze available literature about racial and gender diversity in the sphere of public relations. Firstly, it is necessary to understand what different people know and think about the chosen field. Secondly, the concepts of race and gender have to be separately identified to understand how they determine the modern workplace. Finally, further solutions must be investigated to clarify how women and black people are able to build their careers in public relations.

Public Relations Essence

Nowadays, many individuals want to be involved in the public relations industry because of different reasons, including career growth, the required qualities, or the possibility to cooperate with groups of people. According to Roberts-Bowman (2016), public relations may be defined in a variety of ways, like management function, two-way communication, social science, or planned activity, and each approach may be correct. The evaluation of several opinions shows that public relations are a complex profession that establishes a positive reputation for an individual or a company through different communication means, media sources, and engagements (Roberts-Bowman, 2016). A modern understanding of public relations includes a tremendous opportunity to promote human development and risk alienation (Nguyen, 2015).

Taking into consideration the goals, elements, and functions of this field, public relations must create the true value of diversity that should exist in organizational culture and people’s expectations (Mundy, 2016). At the same time, diversity is not only a challenge or an obstacle but a motivational factor that encourages creativity and a positive reputation (King, 2019). All these discoveries prove the complexity and unpredictability of the chosen profession.

Racial Diversity in Public Relations

Despite multiple intentions to find a solution to racism-related issues and concerns, racial biases still exist in society as well as in the workplace. On the one hand, public relations is the field where racial differences may result in the successful development of a marketing campaign of an offensive reference (King, 2019). In this case, the race is determined as a means to attract people’s attention and demonstrate a high level of professionalism. On the other hand, Fitch (2016) admitted the role of a professional association in the development of a “normative occupation identity, particularly in service industries such as public relations” (p. 104).

However, research by Hong and Len-Riós (2015) proved that White Americans who strive to achieve working places in the public relations sphere face fewer problems and judgments compared to the Black representatives. Therefore, the color of the skin cannot be ignored in the discussion. With time, new attitudes and opinions towards racial discrimination appear in society, but the essence of diversity remains the same. There will always be reasons to support White employees and challenge the Black ones.

Gender Diversity in Public Relations

Gender is another factor that influences the choice of jobs in public relations. Hesmondhalgh and Baker (2015) investigated the conditions under which both genders have to work and used such concepts as “work segregation” and “gender dynamics” to explain why male domination in the workplace still occurs. The sphere of public relations seems to be available and less restricted to female employees because of the idea that women are more caring and sympathetic as compared to men (Hesmondhalgh & Baker, 2015). There are many women who do not demonstrate caring and stay egocentric or emotionless at work.

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Sometimes, men introduce ideas that are provocative and interesting but less sympathetic, which makes them less appropriate for the chosen position. Place and Vardeman-Winter (2018) said about the importance of work-life balance and leadership positions. Nowadays, not all men can stay strong and resistant to internal and external problems or changes. In these discussions, no attention was paid to the level of knowledge and professional qualities of a PR manager. Therefore, gender diversity is an open question for additional analyses to clarify what standards can be applied to the public relations field.

Opportunities in Public Relations

Regardless of the attitudes towards working diversity, many people cannot get rid of the idea that the color of their skin or their gender may influence their future careers, professional growth, and earning opportunities. About 34% of current employees admit that they face cases of diversity at work more frequently than in their personal lives (Kochar, 2017). The statistical data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) shows that approximately 73% of women and 86% of White people were employed in public relations and fundraising management in 2018.

It means that gender biases (female emotions, kindness, and openness) and racial judgments (the color of skin and prejudiced history) may still matter in choosing employees in the field under discussion. To change the situation, Place and Vardeman-Winter (2018) recommended increasing education opportunities and motivation for both genders and all races. If women are defined as better listeners, the same qualities have to be developed among men (Hesmondhalgh & Baker, 2015). All these opportunities and improvements can be observed in public relations, and the task is to identify the actual scope of diversity problems and choose an appropriate opportunity.

Methodology

This section aims to identify the major steps for gathering and analyzing information about the chosen topic. It includes a list of research questions that have to be answered at the end of the project. The discussion of methodology helps to identify a research approach, design, and strategy in order to gather information and choose credible and reliable sources. In this project, open-ended interviews will be used as a part of qualitative phenomenological research to gather information about the experience of participants.

Research Questions

The major research question that has to be answered at the end of this capstone project is as follows “What is the impact of race and gender diversity in the public relation field?”. To promote a thorough development of the work, several additional research questions have to be developed. They include:

  1. What are the qualities of a public relations employee?
  2. How do people experience diversity at work?
  3. What gender-related issues challenge the field of public relations?
  4. When does race matter in public relations?

Research Approach

The research approach introduces a plan of work that has to be implemented during data collection and data analysis. In this project, a qualitative approach will be used to explore and understand the opinions and meanings that people are able to develop to a particular social problem (racial and gender diversity) (Creswell, 2014). The distinctive feature of this research is the interpretation of quantitative data in an inductive style when the already known facts promote the development of a new discussion.

The exploratory nature of the approach helps to gain a better understanding of a situation, clarify the causes and motivational factors in the workplace. Enough insights into racial and gender diversity in public relations discover some new aspects of the problem in career building for women and black people. Although much time and direct cooperation with a number of people are required and may be a costly procedure, its results should contain interesting details and clear answers to the research questions.

Research Design

As soon as a research approach is identified, it is necessary to decide on a research design that defines the type of inquiry and specific directions for further procedures. According to Creswell (2014), there are five designs for qualitative studies, and phenomenology is the one chosen for this capstone project. The goal of phenomenology is to describe human experiences on their own terms and focus on the assumptions people find important in a particular situation. This design is rooted in such sciences as philosophy and psychology and provides a researcher with an opportunity to gather participants’ opinions and interpret them in a particular way (Creswell, 2014).

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Qualitative phenomenology is a good opportunity for a researcher to understand a problem, learn its roots, and evaluate the same situation from different perspectives that depend on participants, their demographics, and experiences. There is no need to develop a theory or find a solution to a problem. It is expected to investigate the main features of the chosen field and interpret human experiences through the prism of race and gender inequality.

Strategy

A research strategy means a research method that has to be implemented to the already identified plan. Taking into consideration the fact that it is a qualitative phenomenological project with a number of research questions to be answered, an interview will be the main research method. An interview is frequently used by many researchers whose goal is to gather opinions and answer their research questions.

It is a valuable tool to access the phenomenon and gather much qualitative information. The researcher has to conduct interviews either face-to-face, via telephone, or on the Internet (for example, via Skype) (Creswell, 2014). It is possible to gather the participants in groups or talk to them individually. As a rule, open-ended questions are created before the process of interviewing, and all the participants are informed that their conversations are recorded for further textual analysis.

It is planned to gather around 20 participants by means of purposive sampling. This selection helps to find people who can provide the researcher with the best information on the topic. After visiting several local public relations companies and receiving their approval for participation, five white women, five black women, five white men, and five black men between 25 and 45 years will be chosen. Ten questions will be posted to each of them in order to gather enough information for analysis.

Data Type

In this project, structured interviews are the source of qualitative information about race and gender concepts in the field of public relations. The participants are the current employees in PR organizations, so they can use their experience and knowledge to prove or disprove the effect of the chosen biases and prejudices in career development. Structured, open-ended questions provide the researcher with an opportunity to receive similar answers with distinctive perspectives because of individual experiences. All the information has to be recorded in order to be further transcribed and used for textual analysis and answering research questions.

Findings and Discussion

During the process of gathering information, the chosen participants were ready to share their personal experiences and information about how to work in a world where race and gender diversity still matter. The interviews were organized personally via Skype between 6 pm and 8pm when the participants were at home. They did not want to discuss these themes in public, but it was clear that this topic was urgent for them and their workplace. Using the words of participants, four major themes were identified in the study.

Theme One: “Flexibility, movement, and attention to details are the qualities that do not have gender or race characteristics.” One of the first questions was how people see an employee in the field of public relations. Eighteen out of twenty participants defined such qualities as flexibility and movement proving the discussion of Roberts-Bowman (2018) and Mundy (2015). Creativity and positive attitudes also play an important role in public relations (King, 2019; Wynne, 2016). However, in the majority of cases, this quality is replaced by the necessity to be attentive to details. Within the frames of this theme, no gender or racial differences were proved to have a negative or positive meaning.

Theme Two: “Diversity in working relationships and true experiences hidden in public”. In the modern world, people want to develop an open and trustful relationships as possible, introducing new cultures, organizational rules, and common standards (Hesmondhalgh & Baker, 2015; Place & Vardeman-Winter, 2018). Communication with the participants proved that diversity could not be ignored in their professional relationships. They believe that diversity-free societies are created without noticing that the recognition of this problem turns out to be major evidence of the contrary (Kochar, 2017; Nguyen, 2015). In the chosen community, people do not find it necessary to talk about their demographic diversities openly, but some of them think that the color of the skin or gender promotes specific prejudices and opportunities.

Theme Three: “Gender vs. racial inequalities in the public relations workplace”. This theme was created to answer the third and fourth questions in the study. During the interviews, participants had to answer several direct questions about the impact their race or gender could have on their careers. It was found that in the field of public relationships, gender inequalities are not as frequent as racial changes, proving the ideas developed by Hong and Len-Riós (2015). At the same time, new communication channels, as well as social and political improvements, promote enhanced social roles and qualities for public relations experts (Neill & Lee, 2016).

Compared to men, women were recognized as a new opportunity for compassion and understanding among different groups. Black people, in their turn, still face more strict rules and evaluations in order to find a good job and prove their appropriateness in public relations. At the same time, the presence of companies led by blacks promotes the necessity to hire more black people in PR companies to make sure that no racial biases occur in business.

Taking into consideration the findings and the answers of the participants, this study shows that even in the most developed countries, the question about race or gender remains open and challenging for different people. However, the more democratic the country wants to be, the more problems and concerns occur around gender or race factors. This research project examines both diversities and defines racial differences as more influential among the employees in the sphere of public relations.

Conclusion

In general, the problem of race, ethnicity, and diversity in the workplace bothers millions of people around the whole globe. Some organizations try to take the necessary steps and reduce the level of impact of these concerns on productivity, as well as clients and employee satisfaction. In this research project, the task was to identify how gender and race diversity influences the success of practitioners in the sphere of public relations. After communicating with employees of both genders and different races (black and white), several conclusions were made. First, it was discovered that modern working places do not want to discuss diversity prejudice in public.

Therefore, many misunderstandings, hidden complaints, and dissatisfactions occur in American public relations companies. Second, the peculiar feature of diversity in public relations is not always characterized by negative outcomes. Because of the presence of multicultural working environments, globalization, and industrialization, both gender and race diversity can bring a number of benefits, including the possibility to cooperate with the representatives of various ethnicities and understand their cultural or social norms.

In the field of public relations, people strive to become as diverse and unpredictable as possible to attract the attention of new stakeholders and clients. Unfortunately, the desire to improve the client database does not promote evident benefits in human resources. Some employees still believe that their gender or the color of the skin can impact their professional development, career growth, and wages.

The experience of women and black people remains ambiguous because the participants demonstrate different attitudes towards the way of how their demographic factors influence their careers. It is recommended to conduct a quantitative research study with time to identify a consistent pattern of the chosen topic and compare the results not only in terms of a phenomenon of workplace diversity. Further research may include the numeric differences between the achievements of four groups like white and black women, white women and black men, white and black men, and black women and white men.

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Labor force statistics from the current population survey. Web.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Fitch, K. (2016). Professionalizing public relations: History, gender and education. New York, NY: Springer.

Hesmondhalgh, D., & Baker, S. (2015). Sex, gender and work segregation in the cultural industries. The Sociological Review, 63(1), 23-36. Web.

Hong, S., & Len-Riós, M. E. (2015). Does race matter? Implicit and explicit measures of the effect of the PR spokesman’s race on evaluations of spokesman source credibility and perceptions of a PR crisis’ severity. Journal of Public Relations Research, 27(1), 63–80. Web.

King, N. (2019). Making the case for diversity in marketing and PR. Forbes. Web.

Kochar, S. (2017). Nearly half of American millennials say a diverse and inclusive workplace is an important factor in a job search. Web.

McCluney, C. L., Schmitz, L. L., Hicken, M. T., & Sonnega, A. (2018). Structural racism in the workplace: Does perception matter for health inequalities?. Social Science & Medicine, 199, 106-114.

Mundy, D. E. (2016). Bridging the divide: A multidisciplinary analysis of diversity research and the implications for public relations. Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations, 3(1). Web.

Neill, M. S., & Lee, N. (2016). Roles in social media: How the practice of public relations is evolving. Public Relations Journal, 10(2), 1-25.

Nguyen, T. (2015). America’s dynamic diversity and what it means for PR professionals. Web.

Place, K. R., & Vardeman-Winter, J. (2018). Where are the women? An examination of research on women and leadership in public relations. Public Relations Review, 44(1), 165–173. Web.

Roberts-Bowman, S. (2016). What is public relations? In A. Theaker (Ed.), The public relations handbook (5th ed.) (pp. 3-26). New York, NY: Routledge.

Stamarski, C. S., & Hing, L. S. S. (2015). Gender inequalities in the workplace: The effects of organizational structures, processes, practices and decision makers’ sexism. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1400. Web.

Wynne, R. (2016). Five things everyone should know about public relations. Forbes. Web.

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