Male PR Professionals: Look Her In The Eyes
You walk into the office on Monday wearing a powerful outfit; a deep red blouse under a black blazer and a pair of dress-pants that show you’re in charge. Today is new hire day, so you have a laundry list of interviews to observe and complete; back-to-back. You’re an executive; the first-in-command at the agency. It’s your duty to oversee who the agency accepts to craft positive campaigns for the clientele. After all, your clients are a major focal point of your agency and if a new hire is to be accepted, they need to understand the level of responsibility you expect of them.
Before conducting the interview, you set your questions aside and read over a well-polished resume. Sitting next to you is the second-in-command along with an account leader. The second-in-command is someone you’ve always been able to count on. She’s a great manager you can always depend upon to handle the office when you’re attending to your other responsibilities, but today she’s working right alongside you. The account leader looks over his notes and, when you give the signal, sends in the prospective new-hire.
The new-hire has a well-trimmed beard and a very nice tailored suit. He introduces himself and shakes everyone’s hand, going out of his way to be professional. You introduce the team along with everyone’s positions and begin to conduct the interview, asking him the questions. All is going well, until you notice he hasn’t made eye contact with you or your second-in-command a single time. He keeps addressing all of his answers to your account leader; the only other male in the room and the lower rung in the chain of command.
This happens all the time.
Hi, my name is Clay Gillespie. I’m a young public relations practitioner and I witness this involuntary practice among my other male colleagues constantly. It’s subtle and, most of the time, uncontrollable. It also drives me completely up the wall.
Here’s the thing: The public relations workplace is no longer a male-dominated area. In 2010, Ragan.com reported that 73% of the 21,000 members of PRSA were female. Syracuse University bumped the number up to 85% the same year during their research on female presence in the industry as a whole.
Women are put in executive and managerial positions because they’re ambitious and goal-driven, most of the time even more than their male colleagues. I’ve worked with more amazing women that take charge over men in groups, not because they feel they need to, but because it comes naturally to them.
I’d venture to say that not a single male within my generation and industry has any justification to think men still exclusively hold these types of positions, because the contrary is being shown almost every single day. So why do I keep seeing men address me over my female superiors?
Here’s another scenario:
My girlfriend is a beautiful woman with ambitions to become a film director and/or screenwriter. She’s smart, funny and knows what she’s talking about when it comes to her aspirations. We could be at a nice get-together at a friend’s house, when another guest strikes up conversation.
When it’s a male speaking, they address me over her. We could be engaged in a discussion about Jeremy Renner and his upcoming movie "Kill The Messenger" and nine times out of ten they’ll address me rather than her. Little do they know, she’s researched that movie inside and out and will even lead the conversation. Not only that, she looks up to Kathryn Bigelow, director of Jeremy Renner’s biggest film “The Hurt Locker.” Still, eye contact hits me with every response.
Why does this keep happening?
I don’t believe the men of my generation are “stuck in their ways” or “influenced by society” because every study on the female work force has shown positive growth. Through nearly every single job or internship I’ve experienced, either the team leaders are women, the executives are women or the CEOs have been women. This isn’t just the public relations field either. This includes retail along with clubs and organizations.
I think that it stems from not noticing. It’s easy to fall into the comfortable lexicon of using masculine pronouns to describe a hypothetical manager or CEO. It’s easy to get used to addressing men over women subconsciously. I understand that in the world we live in, we tend to gravitate toward colleagues of our gender because we may feel we have more in common.
That comfortable mindset needs to be broken.
Male professionals, you have to recognize that this subconscious behavior exists and you have to correct it internally. Women are noticing it, and I guarantee it will cost you your career and the respect of your colleagues if you don’t. Not only that, but it’s the ethically and morally right thing to do. Once you notice it in yourself, you’ll notice it in others and it’ll bug you just the same as me.
Trust me, you’ll want to notice these mannerisms within yourself before we do. Especially since she’s the one that will be hiring you.
Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia