You are on page 1of 27

JOURNAL OF PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH, 19(3), 229–254 Copyright © 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

PR Bunnies Caught in the Agency Ghetto? Gender Stereotypes, Organizational Factors, and Women’s Careers in PR Agencies
Romy Fröhlich and Sonja B. Peters
Institute for Communication Science and Media Research Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Against the background of the high feminization of the German agency sector, this article investigates 2 specific factors that help explain women’s careers in public relations agencies: gender stereotypes and the organizational context. We present parts of a recent German explorative study: Long interviews were conducted with 13 female public relations experts to explain their view on women’s situation in public relations in general and to describe their own careers. Findings reveal the evolution of a “PR bunny” stereotype that adds a negative touch to the female image as “natural born communicators.” Furthermore, our results support the argument that women seem to prefer (a) the organizational culture of public relations agencies, (b) agency-specific job tasks, and (c) agency-specific work processes. Possible consequences for practitioners and the profession are discussed.

In Germany, the number of women in public relations is currently at about 53% (Fröhlich, Peters, & Simmelbauer, 2005, p. 80). Feminization is, therefore, on a lower level than in the United States (see L. A. Grunig, Toth, & Hon, 2000, p. 50), but still comparable nevertheless: The “gender switch” in German public relations has also become a reality, and we can now see a clear trend toward a
Correspondence should be sent to Romy Fröhlich, Institut für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Oettingenstr. 67 D–80538 München, Germany. Email:



female-dominated field. In addition to this, a similar segmentation of the field and discrimination against women in terms of salaries, public relations roles, and hierarchical positions has also been observed in the most recent descriptive study on the public relations field in Germany (Fröhlich et al., 2005).1 The findings, however, show that the number of women strongly varies between different types of organizations: The highest female majority in public relations can be found in public relations agencies (69%), followed closely by independent public relations consultants (63%), associations (49%), corporations (41%), and government (38%; see Fröhlich et al., 2005, p. 81). This data clearly show that women are underrepresented the most in exactly those fields that have the longest tradition of affirmative action—namely, governmental organizations. But even in public relations agencies, the type of organization that has the highest female share not only in total, but also in top positions (here 59% of top positions are held by women), women in comparison to men are still underrepresented in top positions (only 34% of women as opposed to 52% of men are in top positions; Fröhlich et al., 2005, appendix, p. 3). But why are there such large differences between male and female professional status and representation in public relations? In comparison to research on structural data, explanatory research on sex differences in public relations and on the factors contributing to discrimination against women is relatively new (see also Aldoory, 2005). Only recently did the main theoretical and empirical focus shift toward understanding the processes lying behind the observed phenomenons (e.g., Aldoory & Toth, 2002; L. A. Grunig et al., 2000; O’Neil, 2003; Toth, Serini, Wright, & Emig, 1998). The qualitative study presented in this article is the very first of the explanatory kind in Germany. In its basic conception, our study follows prior explanatory U.S. studies (e.g., Hon, 1995; Wrigley, 2002). What is more, as it offers new evidence of the importance of gender stereotypes and of different organizational contexts for understanding the complex and sometimes most subtle mechanisms of discrimination against women in public relations, the study contributes to the development of feminist theory in public relations research. Therefore, this article is as much a report on new results of a single national study as it is a synthesis of related research beyond national boundaries. In the following, we (a) summarize the theoretical background of our study, (b) outline the study’s research questions and methodology, (c) present the study’s most interesting results, and (d) draw conclusions from our findings and discuss their meanings.

1Prior quantitative study conducted by independent university researchers. The sample was the result of a complex process and represents the whole German public relations field.

& Ummel. job-related motives. preferences.e. . Supposed less managerial skills (gender stereotypes) and alleged less interest in managerial tasks (socialized preferences. 1997. values. Feminist scholars in public relations research have realized the interdependence of different factors. Aldoory & Toth. especially women’s work–home conflict). Women are assumed to have specific characteristics caused by gender-specific socialization processes that make them more suitable for certain tasks (like communications) than others (like management). p. we put special emphasis on two aspects: (a) the identification of gender stereotypes and (b) the influence of specific organizational contexts—like. strategies to overcome the glass ceiling are mainly the individual’s responsibility—namely. Accordingly. or structuralist perspective. Nadai. see. e. (b) In contrast. e. Hon. Rakow. Accordingly.g. 2002. psychological research emphasized that processes of self-selection—that is. in public relations and feminization research. changes of social. traditional sex roles (i. 1989) suggests explanations that lie in the structural demands of organizations and society. agency or corporate contexts—on women’s careers in public relations.. empirical research (Aldoory & Toth. Vianen & Fischer. e.. for example. canalizing women into jobs and positions of less prestige and status. that women are recommended to adopt male characteristics and behavior. the human capitalists” model. translated by authors). Others rejected this perspective as “blaming the victim” (Hon.. Women’s discrimination is described as the “aimed product of patriarchical strategies of power and influence” (Heintz. Furthermore. self-stereotyping) are said to explain sex differences. 1995. there are two main perspectives on the sex differences in the field: (a) The radical feminist approach or individualist perspective (see. the liberal feminist approach.g.g.. organizational. and the overall devaluation of women and women’s work as main processes of selection. In addition. and professional circumstances are claimed. 1995. 32.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 231 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND Different Perspectives on the Feminization and the Segmentation of the Field To summarize briefly. Fischer. Against the background of interconnected processes of selection and self-selection.g. 2002). e.. 34). mostly socialized characteristics and preferences—this means processes of self-selection (including. and self-concepts—play as important a role for women’s careers as processes of selection do (see. Advocates point to male-dominated work environments. Wrigley. 2002) has shown that only a synthesis of both the radical and the liberal perspective can do justice to the complex mechanisms at work in different situations. 2002). focuses on individual. p.

1998. L. interest in other people. Advocates of a model of female superiority in public relations argue that “feminist values” have a positive effect on professional public relations and the efficiency of public relations as a whole.232 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS The Role of Gender Stereotypes The center of the controversial debate in research on the feminization of public relations is marked by the interpretation of presumed gender differences. But there are also voices that express concern about this essential stressing of “feminist values. more importance will be attached to gender as a social category and it will once again be linked to strict. equity. In this context. justice. and L. 63). nurturance.. A. 1993. E. Grunig et al. this perspective also exists in Germany. whereas the hierarchical 2A similar but far more critical argumentation is followed by Lisbet van Zoonen (2006. German practitioners have argued for quite some time that women are “natural born communicators” (Dinter. although there is less support among researchers than among public relations practitioners themselves (see Angerer. Grunig. fairness. altruism. 71). perceptiveness. 1995. is to be understood as “the result of [women’s] limited social power. therefore. “women’s ‘exceptional’ communication skills are nothing more than the learned (if not always fully conscious) use of particular behaviors and strategies. Aldoory outlined her “feminist model of leadership” in public relations. 67–68) Fröhlich suggested. and to what extent. culturally determined stereotypes. respect. & J. even spoke of a “revolution of the heart” (p. Rakow. Aldoory & Toth. morality and commitment” (p. translated by authors). 2001. 55. in press) on behalf of journalism: “It is exactly the traditional cultural prescriptions of femininity—good looks. Grunig et al. The two main questions are (a) whether. honesty.” Wrigley (2002) considered that the “new” feminist values really mean a reinforcement of traditional gender role socialization and are of little help in changing the male-dominated status quo and structures (p.2 Apart from the United States.” . Women could be forced into a fixed corset—in this case the corset takes the form of the ideal communicator—which will more than likely determine our/their behavior. interconnection. caring. care and compassion—that the new market driven journalism seems to ask for. A. 162). Grunig. L. 49). women and men are generally suited to public relations and (b) women’s and men’s specific suitability for the two main public relations roles—namely. sensitivity. Dozier. 1992. the technical and the managerial role. (pp. emphasizing “feminist values” like “cooperation. And Fröhlich (2004) even went beyond this when she criticized that as a result of the thesis that women are better communicators. acquired during childhood socialization that positioned them as less important than boys/men” (p. A. 2000. p. which consequently would lead to a growing valuation of women. p. Cooperative behavior. 1989). intuition. 43). particularly at management level (see Aldoory.

.” which suggests a vicious circle between the emphasis of “feminist values” and the glass ceiling phenomenon: At entry level. This interconnection has to be linked to psychological strategies of dealing with sex differences. Consequently. female attributes like orientation toward dialogue and consensus really can be advantageous. Furthermore. lack of assertiveness. warmth. a lack of consciousness of the interconnection between processes of selection and self-selection (as also described in Fröhlich’s “friendliness trap”) is very likely to maintain the status quo of gender roles and values. turn out to be a “career killer” and could serve to hinder any real innovation of women’s self-concepts (Fröhlich. In this context. poor conflict management. or morality) are then recoded as a lack of management skills (viz. 71–72). 72.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 233 and direct behavior of men is a result of their greater dominance and status” (p. Hon (1995). described the “denial” of sex differences in public relations not only as a strategy to deal with the problem. this traditional set is now being viewed as an advantage for communication professions like public relations in general. the “newness” of such stereotypes is questionable. We doubt the positive effects of this meaning making on women’s innovation of self-concepts and rather believe it to lead to simply another kind of self-deception. pp. That means that even though expectations of the female role have changed for the better.. 2000). for example. e. the continual male dominance of the managerial role (and with this the male dominance of defining power) seems to support the existence and the subtle mechanisms of such “new” gender stereotypes in public relations. Such stereotypes offer an insight into the tension for (women in) this occupation—that is to say. personnel selection). processes of self-selection (self-stereotyping). but lost the professional autonomy and status by being subjugated to doctors. the female characterization becomes an own goal and functions as the justification for the discrimination toward women because female attributes (like sensitivity. A. honesty. 2004. Fröhlich developed her “model of the friendliness trap. . see also Alfermann. the role itself actually remains fixed. fairness. In any case. The stereotypes of women as the “natural born communicators” could. because they represent exactly the same set of attributes as the well-known “traditional” female gender role.g. But what is “new” about gender stereotypes in the public relations sector is that through concepts like the “feminist values” (L. therefore. Henley. in this context. it is important to note that gender stereotypes not only can be decisive in processes of selection (like. but also in influencing women’s own beliefs about their specific skills—that is. 1996. but also as one important factor contributing to the perpetuation of the problem. Women successfully claimed the occupation. the tension associated with choosing gender-based occupational identity to support women’s claim to this particular professional arena and the concurrent danger this presents in terms of deprofessionalization. and only a new social categorization of women is fostered. and weak leadership skills). Certainly. Grunig et al.. 1977). But as soon as the time of promotion to top management comes. A very similar case is historically offered by the occupation of nursing.

234 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS The Role of the Organizational Context As shown previously. because of this. qualitative U... 1995. corporations)? Up until now. which has not yet been published..” In addition. 2005) provides evidence that.g. the latest data on public relations in Germany (Fröhlich et al. in Germany the number of women varies between different types of public relations organizations (Fröhlich et al. in this article. in relative terms. Their findings show that women in nonmanagerial positions have less masculine 3We conducted a separate study on the trend of female independent consultants in January 2006. it would seem plausible that women in agencies experience less discrimination and. Wrigley. Hon. What is also as interesting as the female proportion in agencies is the high ratio of female independent consultants3 and male government employees. think that women in agencies are of particular importance in the identification of the “glass ceiling” phenomenon. there has been no detailed research on the role of specific organizational contexts for women’s careers in public relations. has to be of importance when it comes to our understanding of the processes of selection and self-selection in public relations. First of all. women in public relations agencies contribute a unique point of view to the field in general. Organizational Culture and Structure The Dutch psychologists Vianen and Fischer (2002) offered a plausible explanation for women’s self-selection in general: the gender differences in organizational culture preferences. the barriers for women might be smaller or at least different to other types of organizations because of a less male-dominated work environment (numerically speaking). Vianen and Fischer investigated women’s motives for pursuing a career in top management.S. this means that even women in the most female-dominated work environment still somehow experience the “glass ceiling. government. Consequently. however. Women’s surge toward agencies. In agencies. But why are there such large differences between different types of organizations? In particular. We. Both Hon’s (1995) and Wrigley’s (2002) findings show that women in agencies have quite often deliberately chosen this particular work environment to avoid discrimination. However. which is highest in public relations agencies. men in agencies still dominate the managerial role. 2005). studies (e. we decided to concentrate on female employment. Using two sample surveys. therefore. Accordingly. might be less suitable participants in research on discrimination. . However. why are there so many women in public relations agencies (69%) and comparatively few in other types of organizations (associations. 2002) have shown that the organizational context definitely matters in terms of circumstances concerning the work–home conflict or male dominance.

and the work–home conflict was described by all women as the main barrier to accepting a top position (p. “the promotion of a relational self. The interview participants “made it clear they believe the cultures of corporations are very different from the cultures found in agency environments” (Wrigley. p. 333). In addition. Hon. p. p. 151). O’Neil in her quantitative survey could not find a correlation between gender and influence within the organization (O’Neil. 316). 2003. hierarchical relations. such as public relations agencies. 40) or “argued that male dominance varies by type of organization” (Hon. and less fixed task-profiles. see Wienand and Stoltenow (2001). their studies also show a correlation between masculine culture preferences and the hierarchical position of women and men in organizations. Consequently. and collaboration within the organization” (p. 1995. That is to say. Wrigley. Overall. This may. 1995. Apart from this. 2002. the findings of these psychological studies offer a new and most illuminating explanation for the persistent male dominance of the managerial role even in clearly numerically femaledominated fields like public relations agencies: “even in less masculine-oriented cultures. Furthermore. whose findings are initial. or gender” (p. Vianen and Fischer’s (2002) findings also contribute to the body of knowledge of research on public relations roles. 316) are described as typical characteristics of a female-oriented organizational culture. extrinsic incentives like status and salary were less important for women than for men when accepting a top position. the participants assumed that women had a better chance of being promoted in fields with less male-oriented cultures. which was limited to 4That is. . because these fields or types of organizations are possibly less dominated by a masculine culture—at least from a woman’s point of view. p. In contrast to this. promotion of independence.S. 331). maintaining balance in life activities. Vianen and Fischer’s (2002) findings help to explain O’Neil’s (2003) results of a first quantitative study that investigated “whether the perceived organizational influence of men and women in corporate public relations was related to formal structural power. One could suppose that women possibly prefer specific public relations fields or types of public relations organizations. 2002. 332). task-orientation. mean a higher flexibility between different hierarchical levels. Vianen and Fischer’s results suggest that O’Neil’s sample. for example. participation. competition. At least we know from some qualitative U. 2002. In contrast to the former qualitative studies’ argument (Aldoory & Toth. their findings on ambition show clear gender differences: “At all organizational levels. autonomy. managers have relatively large masculine culture preferences compared with other employees in the organization” ( p. establishment of status. 2002). for Germany.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 235 cultural preferences4 than men of the same sample group. 46). 174). more teamwork. studies that organizational contexts do play a certain role in women’s career decisions. relationship power. and authority (Vianen & Fischer. women were shown to have weaker managerial ambitions than men” (p.

e. 2002. In most families. 1995.g. Aldoory & Toth. a “new” role concept in public rela5Vianen and Fischer (2002) distinguished three hierarchical levels: (a) staff employees. Wrigley. there has been no research on the real differences in organizational family policy in relation to different types and cultures of organizations. Therefore. Accordingly. and (c) top management. Against the background of discussing women’s specific job-related motives. particular job task preferences might assist in the understanding of women’s surge toward public relations agencies. ambition. It should be noted that Vianen and Fischer (2002) without doubt saw that processes of self-selection—as investigated in their work—are tightly interconnected with processes of selection (structural and organizational circumstances). consequently. organizational culture preferences.. Their studies show that. But as yet. 331).g. it would seem highly plausible to assume that agencies in some way also offer better opportunities for employed mothers to manage the “balancing act” than other types of organizations. These gender differences—and this is crucial—decrease the higher the hierarchical level. types of public relations organizations. . women who are still the ones responsible for looking after children or elderly people.. 2002). might be one of the main reasons for the missing influence of the “sex” variable: Vianen and Fischer’s findings make clear that the specific culture. the work–home conflict is of critical importance in understanding women’s choice of specific work environments—that is. job-related motives and values. and values.5 mechanisms of selection become a main barrier to women’s advancement toward top management: “The glass ceiling is specifically located between the middle management level and the top level” (p. there are two steps (“glass ceilings”) between the three levels that have to be taken during advancement up the organizational ladder. type. and size of an organization shape the extent of gender differences (e. The “work–home conflict” has repeatedly been commented on in research as a main factor that causes discrimination toward women (see. Hon. Against this background. preferences. often have to make do with lower salaries and poorer promotion prospects. especially at the so-called second glass ceiling. If we think of women’s surge toward public relations agencies in Germany. (b) middle management. etc. Different Job Tasks Next to gender differences in organizational culture preferences. often have to work only part-time—or at least cannot compete with childless colleagues or male parents in working overtime—and.236 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS top-level corporate public relations practitioners (senior management).). it becomes clear that a limitation of a survey sample to top-level corporate public relations practitioners also reduces the influence of the “sex” variable.

g. not only women’s real job-related values and motives count in situations like personnel selection or promotion. work–life balance. 2002) on the factors influencing the careers of female public relations practitioners. Toth. And. These can feature anywhere from the very poles of a somewhat “traditional” concept of success with rather extrinsic values and preferences (e. It is quite plausible that personnel managers’ decisions are also deeply influenced by gender stereotypes about women’s (presumed) particular talents and job task preferences. peers and subordinates. Wright. power. women’s beliefs about their traditionally ascribed skills and preferences (self-stereotyping) may also cause female public relations practitioners to choose certain work environments. processes of selection also matter a great deal in this context. In this article. the study in its basic conception followed previous qualitative U. 145). research. Testing previous classifications of public relations roles (technicians and managers). how deeply interconnected mechanisms of selection and self-selection can be. Both aspects have yet to be the subject of sufficient empirical research. In our opinion.. more than in other fields of public relations. Wrigley. If we think of what is said to be the specific female characteristics. We therefore see. salary. 1991)? If yes. the following interpretation of this similarity seems plausible: It could well be that female public relations practitioners’ job-related talents and interests are extremely closely met by agency-specific job tasks. therefore. we conducted a qualitative study among German female public relations professionals in agencies. individual job satisfaction). And perhaps. without doubt. . For example. communicating with clients. is an initial exploration of the fundamental processes at work in the agency sector.. studies (e. With the background described so far in mind. status.. progression to a higher level) to a more “alternative” concept that takes into account more intrinsic values and preferences (e. one could deduce important processes of self-selection contributing to our understanding of women’s surge toward public relations agencies. on (a) gender stereotypes and (b) the organizational context. do women actually find the opportunity to combine the tasks of both the managerial and the technical role in public relations agencies (see Creedon. team-oriented organizational culture.g. In doing so. Our study. accordingly. then a certain similarity to the “agency profile” is more than obvious.S. and.g.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 237 tions research could be of particular importance. handling correspondence and phone calls. we present parts of the study’s findings—namely. programming decisions. 1995. making media contacts” (p. and Emig (1998) identified this new profile: the so-called agency profile that is characterized by “counseling. We cannot rule out that different people—not least because of different socialization backgrounds (women/men)—have very different ideas of what “personal success” entails in their working life. Hon. Serini. But. once again.

government. Long interviews were conducted in 2003 to give 13 female public relations experts the chance to explain their own personal views on women’s situation in public relations in general. Long Interviews With a Biographic Approach Some main methodological aspects were adopted from similar previous U. our study does not claim representativity. Detailed comparisons of these intervening variables. Therefore. international network.238 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND METHODOLOGY In consideration of the theoretical background and according to the study’s explorative character. In Germany. formed part of our study and indeed provided most interesting results. just like in the United States. p. Therefore. corporation.) as well as organizational culture (atmosphere among colleagues. however. we conducted long interviews7 (average 84 min). etc. without a doubt. Like Hon. etc. agencies are usually external service firms working for various clients with various topics and issues in contrast to corporate public relations departments in organizations. proportion of male and female leaders and employees. there is a trend away from the expression “agency” toward more general ones like “PR firms. which gave room for spontaneity and flexibility with 6Although in Germany. 7Long interviews “are similar to in-depth interviews. of course. Their detailed presentation. As a result.) constitute different organizational contexts. 39). the following open research questions arose: (a) How do female public relations practitioners in public relations agencies generally perceive and judge the role of gender stereotypes for women’s careers in public relations? How do female public relations practitioners judge other women in the field? Are female public relations practitioners aware of the possibly hidden threats of stereotypes? Do they actually believe in the existence and impact of such stereotypes at all? (b) What differences between the specific organizational contexts of agencies6 and corporations do female public relations practitioners in public relations agencies describe? How are these differences being judged in general and in the context of the participants’ own careers? Is the high female majority in agencies a sign of women’s general problem of identifying with the structures of a male-dominated work environment? What roles do structural and individual factors play in women’s perceptions of the agency sector? According to the study’s explorative character. . studies (Hon.” we decided to stick to the still more common term agency. participants were asked to specify their work environment in terms of size and structure (number of employees. 39). and to give a detailed description of their own careers. not only the “types” of organizations (agency.S. we also used a “schedule of general question areas” (p. hierarchical structure. 1995. would have required too much space in this article. evaluation of leaders.). 1995. we decided to only summarize the main trends and the most interesting findings. but long interviews go beyond studying individual perceptions and feelings—identifying shared mental categories among participants as the primary goal” and still “provide an opportunity for women to speak for themselves” (Hon. qualitative methods were used. family policy. In addition. etc. Wrigley. 2002). However. like Hon.

as women in agencies are believed to be of particular importance in identifying the “glass ceiling” phenomenon. roles. This combination of problem-centered and biographic elements in the interviews proved to be a most helpful instrument in revealing both general patterns and individual experiences and. This is a way of selecting small but heterogeneous samples for 8The combination of CVs handed in before the interview and descriptions of individual experiences during the interview was also supportive in terms of validity. In our biographic approach. we were not merely interested in one stage of a female’s career path (progression to senior levels of management). Sampling and Data Analysis Against the background of (a) the organizational context’s crucial importance in general. position. we asked our participants both (a) for a general comparison of circumstances in agencies and corporations and (b) for an explanation of their individual choice of the agency sector. In our research. Individual case-definition was realized by “theoretical sampling” (Glaser & Strauss. such a limitation of the sample makes sense. As discussed previously. we used a biographic approach. key facts told during the interview could be compared with information from the CVs afterwards. we paid special attention to the participants’ very individual definitions of success and asked them for their individual objectives for their professional careers. consequently. and (c) the previous lack of research on women in public relations agencies. starting from education all the way through to different occupations. 1979). Apart from this. and accurateness in the interviews. which was achieved by a detailed analysis of every interviewee’s individual professional life (from their curriculum vitae handed in before the interview. openness. and from the descriptions given during the interview8) and contributed deeper insights into subconscious and sometimes even subtler key mechanisms beyond the participants’ explicit testimony. and time of professional experiences) to report on their whole careers.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 239 regard to the participants’ own trains of thought. enabled us to compare these two aspects and to discover hidden processes or contradictions. . And we also asked them to comment on both (a) the general meaning of gender in public relations and (b) the impact of their being a woman on their individual professional experiences. Furthermore. and experiences. we decided to question female public relations practitioners in public relations agencies exclusively. the main focus on progression to senior levels of management derives from the mere fact that it is especially there where sex segregation becomes most evident—not only in Germany. because in addition to the participants obvious honesty. we asked our participants (who varied in age. For example. rather. (b) the extraordinarily high female majority in public relations agencies (69% women in Germany).

Using a multilevel snowball sample. and 1 was pregnant.. 5 had children.g. lifestyle. Data analysis followed the approach of qualitative content analysis by Mayring (2002) and the approach of interpretative analysis strategy by Meuser and Nagel (1991) and was conducted with the help of MAXQDA software for qualitative data analysis. technologies.S. for service-oriented professions like public relations. studies—for example. A “New” Gender Stereotype: The PR Bunny All interviewees describe women’s exceptional communication skills as the main factor in explaining the female majority in public relations. we focused on diversity regarding three main individual criteria: (a) age. and (c) martial status and existence of children.. (b) hierarchical position. Seven participants were married. Here are some statements from our interviews:10 9For more information on the studys data analysis. fashion. see Peters (2004) or http://www. and 3 were in a permanent relationship. 2000).com/ 10Our study was originally conducted in German. we present adequate and idiomatic trans- lations of our participants statements. it is argued that men lack crucial sensitivity and empathy toward maintaining relationships with clients. Herein.” as one participant puts it. and paraphrased to a short summary of main statements in the participants’ own language. as well as to the characterization of organizational factors that influence women’s careers in public relations. in terms of both language and expressions. 3 were single (including a young widow). we recruited 13 participants from nine agencies.240 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS qualitative studies by theoretically relevant criteria. Apart from this. Their age ranged from 32 to 58 years old. women. In summary. women’s (presumed) specific skills are seen as being ideal qualities for public relations.maxqda. .). Four women worked part-time. Following Hon (1995) and Wrigley (2002). In the same tenor as in the theory of “feminist values” (L. in contrast. we required (a) a minimum tenure of 5 years and aimed at diversity in terms of (b) agency size and (c) public relations area (e. The aim was to keep individual styles. etc. by Hon (1995) and Wrigley (2002)—but at the same time substantially contribute to the identification of specific gender stereotypes in public relations. journalists. and positions ranged from middle to top level. Recoding of all interviews a second time was performed to support the data’s validity. transcribed. Interviews were taped. and target groups.9 RESULTS Our findings support results of prior U. Grunig et al. A. are “naturally suited.

it is simply a female domain. 34. … There are people who are there just for fun. The traditional gender stereotype of a female’s “lack of management competence” can be said to be clearly evident. And this will always be so. IT/telecommunications. IT/e-commerce/tourism. This term is coined after similar expressions that are used by almost all interviewees independent of each other: “PR clone” (Astrid. 35. it’s those women who are always hopping around at parties. 34. Such a stereotype was found in our study. agency leader. married. women are more communicative. it’s just a matter of fact. . consultant. IT. senior account director. two stepchildren)11 • Well. And there are people who spread their calling cards and they laugh too loud and too much. for the most part. (Ines. We refer to it as the “PR bunny” stereotype. their being a woman—can put themselves into other people’s position better than men can.” or “agency snipe” (Alex. married.” “PR waffler.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 241 • I still find it typically female that women—because of their body. 58. … It is women’s nature that makes them more suitable for public relations. part-time freelancer in fashion/outdoor/high-tech/IT. (Veronika. they love to chat and talk their heads off. • The real PR sluts? Well. one child) • Women are chattier. “PR girly” (Kerstin. In this context. “Barbie doll” (Ines. widowed. widowed. junior consultant. technology. part-time freelancer. agency leader. fashion/outdoor/high-tech/IT. part-time freelancer in fashion/outdoor/high-tech/IT. 34. 40. and women can talk better. 34. And they are al11All interviews are anonymized. one child). support those stereotypes. married). single). their own judgments of women. “PR slut” (Karola. one child) But at the same time. single). long-term relationship). agency leader. … they often talk before they think (laughs)—or faster. 36. And this really is a good thing in this job. This is not a rating. or really “PR bunny” (Elisabeth. To preserve the impression of individuality. (Helga. 33. Although the participants describe their own difficulties with discrimination toward women because of gender stereotypes. And in PR you have to talk a lot! This is absolutely crucial. “PR auntie. our findings offer the first support to Fröhlich’s (2004) argument that stereotyping women as “naturally suited communicators” could lead to the evolvement of “new” (seemingly positive) and more complex gender stereotypes in communications that work as “new” factors that perpetuate the problem of the glass ceiling. IT. we therefore use fictitious names and a short description of relevant demographics. … It has also been proven by scientific research that women are just better at communicating. and that this is different for men. fashion/lifestyle. primarily positively valued female characteristics are recoded negatively by our interviewees when it comes to women’s competence in management. lesbian relationship).

IT/e-commerce/tourism. don’t you?” (Karola.242 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS ways perfectly styled. Female public relations practitioners are being ascribed by female public relations practitioners to be the good-looking companions of male doers at parties and events with their public relations function merely being a trivial “small talk tool. We are service-people. (Astrid. in that the “other side of the table” in the German agency sector (journalists and clients) is often dominated by men. 34. and what I mean by that is you’re someone who talks a lot but doesn’t actually say anything.”12 This means that exceptional female communication skills are not only being devalued.” “lookism. Our study shows that this aspect of devaluation is even applied by female professionals when commenting on female professional behavior. One participant argues that image and show in public relations are quite simply part of professionalism itself: “PR sluts! (laughs) We call ourselves that! And I don’t have a problem with it. such a perfect-blond haircut and looking rather like a stewardess. 1995). fashion/lifestyle. 34. . not all of our participants see the “PR bunny” stereotype merely negatively. What they say is that women in public relations in particular have a natural advantage. agency leader. 36. (Astrid. senior account director. However. might well be a legitimate and subtle strategy to outwit male dominance. … And there are really too many women who walk round in trendy outfits and tell clients great plans. One participant even describes female public relations consultants as a kind of bond 12Hons (1995) participants referred to this devaluation of public relation practitioners with the term “party planners” (p. lesbian relationship) • We always called it the “PR clone”: Louis Vuitton bag. 43). Hon. 35. single) These statements show that the “PR bunny” stereotype gathers several components that in former research have been observed somewhat in isolation: the marginalization of the public relations function and women’s reduction to physical attributes (“sexism.” the use of “women’s natural weapons” as participants term it. but they do not actually deliver on any of them. lesbian relationship) • Agency snipe. the majority of our interviewees argue that in areas like fashion and lifestyle. IT/telecommunications.” “ageism”. and hair in a bun. see. more “real” PR bunnies can be encountered than in other fields or areas of public relations like technology. agency leader. agency leader. pearl necklace. There is also the opinion that the behavior of a typical “PR bunny. Most interesting. (Alex. but are even being recoded as a sign of a lack of professional (public relations) skills in general. (Karola. IT/e-commerce/tourism. And you just have to play the game of service. married). All these exhausting things.. But all participants sharing this perspective explicitly clearly distinguish between a deliberate use of femininity and unprofessional exaggerations. married) • Well. IT/telecommunications. Scuttling round in stilettos. 36. e. agency leader.g.

you’re nice. I don’t prostitute myself in favor of any client. it’s simply much nicer to have to deal with a woman with whom he can go for a coffee once in a while. single) The majority of the participants outline the stereotype not only in general. agency leader. yes—but it is like that. but that they are concurrently substantially (re)produced by female public relations practitioners themselves. It’s more like this: You’re good-looking.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 243 between the male-dominated worlds of journalists and clients because women. 34. For a journalist in search of information. one agency leader even relates the “PR bunny” stereotype to the agency sector itself. There is a clear tendency to support the stereotype on behalf of others—even their own colleagues—but on behalf of oneself. widowed. (Kerstin. What is most interesting in the context of our second research question of the role of specific organizational contexts is that our participants believe that the “PR bunny” stereotype. I believe that clients want somebody in their agency who really knows what they’re doing. IT/telecommunications. and this is very important. but also describe individual experiences of being labeled a “PR bunny. are being threatened by a “henhouse image” (Andrea. But often there is not much behind it. 34. And this really works perfectly. (Ines. in particular. And this is a pleasant story. married. as she explicitly labeled it. it is clear that there is a strong discrepancy between participants’ perceived image of themselves and the image they have of other female public relations practitioners. She thinks that one-gendered (completely female) agencies. That’s what they pay for: professional consulting and top quality work. part-time freelancer in fashion/outdoor/high-tech/IT. in particular. are able to handle claims from both sides: This means that a woman is simply able to use her charm better and her femininity to get rid of information. … Sometimes we have joked a lot about PR sluts. There is a thin line between a successful use of “typical female” attributes and becoming a victim of the stereotype: There are definitely fields where you can find the typical image of a PR girly: the main thing is to be good-looking and talkative. is being attached to women in public relations agencies—more so than to women in other types of organizations.” But. I think in the long term you will not be successful with that. one child) What is decisive is that every single woman has to know the threats of playing with the “PR bunny” stereotype. And because stereotypes never only concern individuals but groups. 37. the dominant feeling seems to be one of unjustly being labeled a “PR bunny. pregnant). due to their empathy and intuition. you’re able to have a pleasant conversation and you’re nice to have around.” We therefore have to understand that stereotypes such as the “PR bunny” stereotype are most likely not only the product of men’s prejudices or the beliefs of people outside public relations. IT. junior consultant. She therefore emphasizes .

Structural Criteria and the Work–Home Conflict Type of organization (agency vs. our findings support the argument that. The Role of the Organizational Context In the interviews. opinions even differed completely. the participants’ different views show that even women working in the same type of public relations organization have very different individual preferences and standpoints that make it rather difficult to believe in general solutions for the general work–home conflict of women in public relations. However.” There are several similar statements by other participants that imply that comparable “principles of a bunch of men” do not exist. general patterns were not easy to identify—for the most part. as participants were also asked to give a detailed description of their own agencies’ family policy and—if they had their own children—to describe their individual solutions to the work–home conflict. our biographic approach enabled us to investigate the specific role played by male dominance for our participants’ individual career decisions. working part-time or as a temporary replacement is almost impossible as working long hours is the rule. as we explicitly asked for the reasons behind job changes—in particular. not only the general relevance of structural criteria for the work–home conflict was addressed. Others recount that agencies. what differences between agencies and corporations can actually explain women’s surge toward agencies? Indeed. This once again underlines how highly complex the mechanisms behind this problem are.244 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS the importance of building a positive agency image by showing that the agency is not being ruled by the “principles of a bunch of women. Although the study provides rich findings on these aspects. Some argue that as a result of more flexible structures. therefore. But in terms of . Corporate public relations departments are often run by a single person. In this regard. and the freelancer status means an additional possibility to work part-time in public relations. female public relations practitioners’ preferences of agency-specific job tasks and organizational culture can help explain the female majority in the German agency sector. participants differ fundamentally and also describe sometimes absolutely polar experiences. Our results do not offer a distinct answer to the question of which type of organization is most family-friendly. in particular. are dedicated to serve clients and journalists and thus demand a great deal of flexibility and willingness to perform. corporation). and. moves between different types of organizations. Finally and apart from general comparisons. agencies in general offer better chances for employed parents than corporations. if there is obviously no generalization possible on agency-specific circumstances regarding the work–home conflict. above all. In addition.

individual arrangements can be made less bureaucratically. opinions are exact opposites. in the context of family commitments. Text. “As a mother you somehow take a back seat and write texts” (Elisabeth. married). This side also sees the freelancer status as being very critical. the more everyone is bound to rather inflexible. One agency leader commented. self-employment represents both the major barrier and the greatest chance for balancing family and work” (Karola. “In short. in particular. 33. One participant remarked. The larger the organization. face the threat of being forced into the technical role. and therefore is particularly dangerous for working mothers who depend on these factors even more than childless people do. in regard to these aspects. In addition. participants’ descriptions show that a higher hierarchical position can also be an advantage: In particular. consultant. fixed working hours are extremely important. the other side argues that small organizations like agencies do not allow for any redistribution of tasks because all employees have to cope with a maximum workload in any case. all interviewed women judge the hierarchical position and related job tasks as being crucial factors in influencing women’s ability to juggle family and work. or background work (technician) are described as tasks better suited to employed mothers. and. long-term relationship). On the other hand. health insurance. temporary replacements of missing colleagues can be organized far quicker.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 245 flexibility and long working hours. make it possible to have tighter cooperation between employees and leaders. Size of organization. research. In contrast. 36. On the one hand. Last but not least. agency leaders among the participants argue that they had an extraordinarily high amount of freedom to structure their own lives. as self-employment also involves an element of uncertainty in terms of a lack of regular income. Hierarchical position and job tasks. paid vacancies. Preferences of Job Tasks and Work Processes All participants of our study describe individual preferences of agency-specific job tasks as an important . if necessary. official structures. agency leader. Therefore. This means employed mothers. It is also remarked that the larger the organization. mothers are certainly being set certain limits. and so forth. Also. even more so than women in general. IT/e-commerce/tourism. because larger organizations can simply afford to pay double social welfare contributions far more easily than smaller ones. One side thinks that very small organizations like agencies. time-consuming tasks like leadership and customer care are considered less suitable for mothers because. which is not always easy to achieve in a service occupation like public relations. the better the chances for part-time employment. IT. clearer structures in larger organizations are interpreted as providing a higher level of security and certainty rather than inflexibility.

in addition to shorter and less bureaucratic ways of decision making. (Astrid. and self-concepts than in other fields of public relations. and competitive atmosphere. spheres of activity. This explanation for women’s surge toward public relations agencies is strongly supported by some participants’ statements on the differences of organizational cultures of agencies and corporations: They say that. Relevant statements in the interviews suggest that women actually prefer the agency sector because they prefer job tasks similar to the “agency profile. a familiar and team-oriented atmosphere was being cultivated.” • To be a boss is a long learning process because you can basically compare it to a child’s education. in a way. after a certain corporate tenure—some even lasting several years—moved to the agency sector. This provides further support to the thesis that women’s surge toward public relations agencies can be understood as their deliberate choice for the agency sector to avoid discrimination (see also Hon. whereas big corporations in particular are dominated by a rather harsh. This step—as well as the step to obtaining the status of independent consultant—was significantly motivated by having experienced frustration due to the glass ceiling. a greater variety of areas.246 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS criterion for their own choice of an agency—namely. Wrigley. little prospect of promotion. Well.” our study confirms the argument that organizational cultures in public relations agencies better suit women’s job-related motives. 34. 1995. individualistic. preferences. and little room for developing one’s own ideas in corporations. Two agency leaders even compare the responsibility of leadership to the responsibility of a parent and. whereas public relations experts in corporations virtually only have one client—their own organization. lesbian relationship) . and flexibility. IT/telecommunications. They derive these differences from the fact that most agencies consult several clients. it’s certainly not as easy as I thought. However. Against the background of Vianen and Fischer’s (2002) findings on sex differences in “organizational culture preferences. different work processes in relation to the organization’s size are a second important criterion in favor of (small) public relations agencies. Organizational Culture Preferences We were able to show that 7 out of 13 participants. You need a lot of discipline and you have to set limits. describe their team to be almost a kind of “substitute family. spontaneity. 2002). Several participants explain that smaller organizations in particular offer more room for creativity.” Furthermore. an uncompromising obligation to service. negative attributes of agencies are said to be a strong dependency on clients. with this. agency leader. especially in smaller public relations agencies. and a (presumed) higher workload than in corporations. and contact outside the organization.

put stronger emphasis on long-lasting interpersonal relationships. a freelancer explains in this context that women. married. professionalism. DISCUSSION /CONCLUSIONS Our study provides interesting findings for our understanding of women’s careers and problems in public relations by identifying “new” gender stereotypes. two children). closer descriptions revealed that a female-dominated agency is not necessarily a guarantee for harmony per se. 2002). Wrigley. even though their qualifications are insufficient. What we do not know is whether.” the “queen bee syndrome.” or “women turning against other women” from prior U. married. studies (see Hon. Women prefer to stay longer with one employer—and try to find continuity” (Eva. two stepchildren) In addition.S. it will be one important challenge to future feminist public relations research to further characterize these . What do phenomenons like the evolvement of “new” gender stereotypes mean to women’s future in public relations and public relations’ future as a (feminized) field in general? At the moment we can only speculate. The existence of a “PR bunny” stereotype among female public relations professionals shows a new devaluation of women’s soft skills by women and offers initial confirmation of Fröhlich’s (2004) model of the “friendliness trap. IT. this recoding process is also applied by women when judging other women. agency leader. Interesting enough. At least some descriptions of their own experiences by our participants show that the image of a “harmonious agency-family” is probably not true in reality: In some cases. therefore. 1995. fundamentally threatens women’s ability to overcome the glass ceiling effect. or like in a family every day. the male competitive game is still being played. This finding refers to key words like “bitchiness. (Veronika.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 247 • To lead an agency in its entirety also means getting along with people every day. In particular. And we are trying to maintain a familiar atmosphere and a friendly tone. agency leader. to have problems like in a personal relationship. whereas men mainly pursued their individual careers and view agencies merely as an entry to big corporations’ marketing departments: “Men want to have a faster career. also in their professional life. 58. That means they try to climb the ladder by job-hopping. the organizational culture in agencies in general meets our participants’ beliefs about a team-oriented. various statements by one participant from a one-gendered (completely female) agency on the struggle for power and intrigues inside the agency clearly show that even without men. friendly atmosphere. technology. and to what extent. 48.” which argues that the stereotyping of women as “natural born communicators” is being accompanied by a recoding process of female attributes as deficiencies in managerial tasks. and public relations competence and.

we believe that “denial” is a factor that not only explains. (b) to be prepared to be treated like a “PR bunny” and know strategies to overcome the problem. Wrigley explained how “denial” hinders consciousness of structural criteria when she stated. However. 2002). which help to assimilate into the system. in doing so. moreover. remains unchallenged” (p. but also contributes to women’s discrimination. but that the shown discrepancy between the participants’ perceived image of themselves and the image they have of other female public relations practitioners is of crucial importance. public relations will have to make do with the image of merely being a vocational profession. with the manifestation of such a stereotype. in certain ways of behavior that. This contradiction results in the maintenance of the status quo and. delay the process of professionalization of public relations and damage the field’s image. the interconnection between the “denial” of the impact of gender stereotypes and the belief in the superiority of “fe- . or not working hard enough. on a lack of experience or credentials. question themselves. “blame is turned back on the woman herself. claim consciousness of one’s own role in the reinforcement of the status quo. The structure is not questioned. we have to understand that (male) prejudices or the beliefs of people outside public relations are not the only driving force behind the (re)production of gender stereotypes. the status quo. and (c) to not unconsciously harm other women in the field by stereotyping them. Furthermore. Stereotypes like the “PR bunny” (re)produce women’s prescription to the technical role and. 2002). we do not only claim consciousness of structural factors (selection) but.” or the so-called “queen bee syndrome” (Hon. But. at the same time believe themselves not to be stereotyped. Women. what is most important. The structure. Like Wrigley. too. “catfighting. 1995. women themselves will have to realize the problem of stereotyping (a) to be able to avoid stereotypical behavior. 1995). The discrepancy between avowed and ascribed identity is linked to psychological strategies like “denial” (Hon. Apart from the problem of stereotyping others. We believe that the shown discrepancy between avowed and ascribed identity is clear proof of women’s own lack of consciousness of the impact of gender stereotypes: Women themselves stereotype each other in the traditional (male) categories—and. it is more than obvious that the “PR bunny” stereotype adds a certain negative touch to women’s exceptional communication skills. 2002) or “negotiated resignation” (Wrigley. in addition. in addition. in a kind of vicious circle. but instead are discussed as natural or socialized attributes. At least. a trend becomes apparent that provides rich nourishment to pessimistic scenarios about the future of public relations. Wrigley.248 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS meanings. As long as public relations skills and know-how—both of the managerial and the technical role—are not acknowledged as the result of a well-founded education. will be deemed as being “typically female” and hindering women’s careers: “women turning against other women” (Wrigley. 43). instead. First of all.

A. one finding is critically important: Several of our participants believe that the “PR bunny” stereotype is. 1995). did not result in a clear decision in favor of one type of organization. The comparison of structural criteria in public relations agencies and corporations. 2001) mainly concerns groups of women in the field of public relations. therefore. 2000) contribute to women’s self-stereotyping instead of supporting a more conscious and individual development of self-concepts.” or the “good-old-boys network” (see... it becomes evident that the overgeneralization of attributes as the central problem of stereotypes (see. being related to women in public relations agencies—more so than to women in other types of organizations. In this context. Grunig et al. We believe this to be one of the most important preconditions to be able to avoid stereotyping others (be it men or women). This problem will be dealt with again later.g. at least. This example demonstrates that the “PR bunny” stereotype in particular might become a serious threat for female-dominated public relations organizations like. Only one general pattern became apparent: Flexibility seems to be a crucial criterion. Hon.g. In our opinion. and meaning of stereotypes. But it is not clear which . the lack of consciousness) of the necessity to reconceive its meanings for one’s own career could virtually become a serious career killer. change. Participant’s judgments of the possibilities for solving the work–home conflict in agencies and corporations differed fundamentally. Our findings on the problem of male-dominated and anachronistic organizational structures and cultures in corporations as the major cause of the glass ceiling effect widely support the results of prior U. as they provide support to the argument that women prefer (a) the specific organizational culture of public relations agencies.” the male “senior set. (b) agency-specific job tasks. are all relatively young. in addition. studies (Hon.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 249 male values” for public relations produces exactly the hidden mechanisms that Fröhlich (2004) outlined in her model of the “friendliness trap. Therefore.” an “unofficial glass ceiling policy. our findings underline the importance of the specific organizational context for understanding women’s surge toward public relations agencies. concepts like the “feminist values” (L. for example. can be briefly summarized by some well-known key words like the male “similarity preference. Wrigley. we have to ask whether there is a connection between the “PR bunny” stereotype and the extraordinarily high female majority in agencies.S. Here.. How then do different components of the “PR bunny” stereotype and the high number of women in agencies work together? If. 1997. e. for example. Talking about the evolution. a public relations agency with special expertise in fashion areas mainly employs women who. however. Heilman. 1995. agencies. here in reference to those studies and to enhance comparability. we also have to consider that stereotypes never only just concern the individual. e. then the stereotype finds rich nourishment. What is more. and (c) agency-specific work processes. women’s (positive) self-concept and the denial (or.” Here. above all else. 2002) and. but primarily refer to a group of individuals.

De.” This assumption is supported by our study. it would also seem plausible that men. which has repeatedly been demonstrated by their own experiences.or semiprofessionalization was considered a possible consequence of a trend toward a typical womans job: the loss of prestige. in particular by our findings on the participant’s fear of a negative agency image because of the high 13For example. Even so. Cline et al. night work prohibition). But even if the image of a “harmonious agency-family” is not just pure invention. 1982. this also applies to Germany. our study shows once again that the work–home conflict strongly concerns women in all types of public relations organizations. just as has happened with regard to the field of public relations in general when a threat to the profession itself was being derived from the increasing number of female public relations practitioners: the “velvet ghetto. 1988). 14Early findings (Broom. which is well known for its splendidly constructed social security system and exceptional family-friendly labor laws. In respect to men’s general dominance of the managerial role and of top positions in public relations. 1989. it is not at all clear whether a female organizational culture has a realistic chance at all of developing in agencies. But against the background of psychological findings on “organizational culture preferences” (Vianen & Fischer. overall and against all reasoning that public relations agencies in particular could offer suitable (due to the higher flexibility) jobs for mothers. reputation and status. it is also not clear whether male influence necessarily leads to a “typically” male culture. 1987. Toth & Cline. Cline. just like women in the agency sector more so than public relations professionals in corporations. female-oriented organizational culture. 1986.13 A question that has to be left unanswered is whether. special parental leave subsidy for about 12 months (up to 60% of the last income). 1989) nourished the fear of a so-called deprofessionalization as a consequence of the feminization of public relations. and decline in the average salaries (Bates. 1995. we have to wonder what consequences such an image might have. Hunt & Thompson. 1983. Interesting. and to what extent. . Broom & Smith. 52) as a major threat to a successful career. laws on maternity protection (3 months maternity leave with continuation of payments. The overgeneralization of this image may develop into a serious problem for public relations agencies. It would seem plausible that men also have a crucial influence in agencies on the dominant organizational culture and its definition. (a) the extremely high feminization trend of the agency sector in combination with (b) the image of an agency-specific. and tax relief for parents. All interviewees judged the “women’s balancing act” (Hon.250 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS type of organization really offers the highest level of flexibility. and (c) the belief that “PR bunnies” are encountered for the most part in agencies could virtually lead toward a “scenario of double threat on the organizational level. That is to say. p.. friendly atmosphere. 2002). the organizational culture in agencies actually fulfils our participants’ perceptions about a team-oriented. 1979. lean toward female organizational culture preferences. dismissal protection for up to 3 years during family leave. child benefits (about 150 euros per child per month).”14 Therefore.

Our findings contribute to our understanding of the high female majority in public relations agencies because they show the importance of the organizational context in connection with women’s own preferences. then on the one hand. and (c) about the field of public relations itself being imbedded into the economic process: Do agencies really represent an alternative type of organization that resembles the social structures of families? Do childless women even choose agencies as a kind of “substitute family?” Does the “agency profile” really correspond to women’s exceptional communication skills more than other public relations roles do? And might it therefore even be plausible to view agencies within the whole public relations process as a kind of “female” mediating factor between clients and the media? What consequences do such structures have on women’s status in public relations and on the judgment of the feminization trend? These questions will have to be the subject of further research. in particular. eternal consulting organizations like public relations agencies are fundamentally weakened by their dependence on clients and budgets. on the other hand. (b) on the organizational level. However. and the distribution of power among them. public relations agencies tend to adopt a kind of mediating position between clients and journalists and feel the need to satisfy the demands of both sides. First of all. Several participants of our study referred to this problem. in this function as a service mediator we could as well locate a possibly problematic consequence of the feminization trend—namely. one could credibly deduce the fear of a scenario that predicts a development of the agency sector toward an “agency ghetto” for women and is characterized by further loss of power and status for female public relations practitioners. we have to consider the particular roles of different types of organizations and individuals within the whole process of public relations. From this. and (c) the individual professional biographies . This possible trend will have to be the subject of further research. a stereotypical image is not the only possible negative effect of the extraordinary feminization of the agency sector. Second. if clients and journalists are mainly male. but also that within the field. new questions arise (a) on the individual level. Further research will have to observe the real effects of the feminization of the agency sector. Our study shows that it is most important for the further development of research to investigate more on (a) structural criteria of the specific labor market.PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 251 number of female employees (see previous: “henhouse image” and “principles of a bunch of women”). Here. Apart from this. In addition. a further explanation for the high number of women in the agency sector could be deduced: One could argue that women are not only extremely well-suited to public relations in general. that public relations agencies as virtually all “female organizations” are threatened by an accelerating loss of influence within the process of public relations itself. they best meet the requirements of public relations agencies. Bearing in mind the argument of women’s “natural” suitability for service occupations. (b) aspects of organizational cultures.

“Über Ängstliche und Angstvolle. L. Gender discrepancies in a gendered profession: A developing theory for public relations. six opinions: The complexities of feminism in communication scholarship today. 161–165. 14. Stuttgart. Newbury Park. Newbury Park: Sage. Here. Turk. Aldoory. (1979). 17–22. Creedon (Ed. G. 103–126. (2001). but we want to stress how strongly interconnected structural and individual aspects. (2002).. M. The language of leadership for female public relations professionals. and self-selection are. And it is up to future research to eventually deliver more detailed insights into the reasons and conditions of evolvement and change as well as the meanings and consequences of the described phenomenons.. D. G. Angerer. 47–59.. July). factors of selection. H. Cline. Women in mass communication: Challenging gender values (pp. E. Toth. 73–101. M. Giddens’ (1984) structuration theory in our opinion could be very fruitful. Cline. & Toth. Broom.” Male and female employees in PR]. L. Communication yearbook. Bates. L. 10(2). We take neither an exclusively radical nor liberal standpoint. (1986). & Toth. 263–275). In P. D. C.. L. 8(3). . The velvet ghetto: The impact of the increasing percentage of women in public relations and business communication. 24 (pp. J. (1992.. 5(3). (1998).. 6–7. (1983. Public relations: The $1 million penalty for being a woman. We think that the awareness of these interconnections will definitely further contribute to the development of feminist theory in public relations research. Germany: Kohlhammer. (1982). A concern: Will women inherit the profession? Public Relations Journal. Johnson. Aldoory. March). Gudykunst (Ed. 345–361). N. pp. Broom. G.). Geschlechterrollen und geschlechtsspezifisches Verhalten [Gender roles and gender specific behavior]. All German quotations are translated by the authors or a translator. (1996). L. A (re)conceived feminist paradigm for public relations: A case for substantial improvement. Journal of Public Relations Research. Aldoory. CA: Sage. L. (2005).” Weibliche und männliche Arbeitnehmer in der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit [“Fearful and timid people. Special help to the latter—Andrew Bannon—who was of great help to smooth our “Genglish” (German English) style. J.252 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS in detail. E. & Smith. Journal of Communication. & Smith. L. Public Relations Review. Testing the practitioner’s impact on clients.-L.. 55(4).. Masel-Walters. G. for example. Medien Journal.). B. C. (1989). A comparison of sex roles in public relations. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We thank the review committee and the editor for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. E. San Francisco: IABC Research Foundation. D. pp. REFERENCES Aldoory. 668–684. Alferman. G. In W. Journal of Public Relations Research. Public Relations Review. L. M. Two feminists.

Women in mass communication: Challenging gender values (pp.. & Thompson. (1991). England: Polity Press. (2001).PR BUNNIES CAUGHT IN THE AGENCY GHETTO? 253 Creedon. Hillsdale.). An analysis of the relationships among structure. (2004). Bridging the gender gap in PR courses. M.. Heintz. E. & Nagel. Garz & K. Ladykiller PR? Nahaufrahmen zu den Bedingungen der beruflichen Karriere als PR-Frau. Germany: Beltz. Masters thesis. L.. B. Hunt. March). E. Journal of Public Relations Research. money …]. Grunig & L. 877–889. A contribution to the discussion on qualitative methodology]. L. 657–674. In D. Towards a feminist theory of public relations. Nadai. E. Glaser. U. L. Journal of Business Ethics. (2005).. The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. B.. Die Entdeckung gegenstandsbezogener Theorie: Eine Grundstrategie qualitativer Sozialforschung [The discovery of objective theory: A basic strategy of qualitative social research].-M. W. A. 49–68. Cresskill. 27–88. p. Journal of Public Relations Research. ExpertInneninterviews—vielfach erprobt. Studien zur geschlechtsspezifischen Segregation des Arbeitsmarktes [Studies about the gender-specific segregation of the job market]. M. Manager’s guide to excellence in public relations and communication management. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. In P. 151–179. N. Fröhlich. & Strauss. San Antonio.. Henley.. L. Germany: Oldenbourg. D... Opladen. In J. R. Feminine and feminist values in communication professions: Exceptional skills and expertise or “friendliness trap?” In M.) [Introduction to qualitative social research]. NJ: Hampton. Basel. (1987. & Hon. H. PR Magazine. Grunig. B. Analysen (pp. de Bruin & K. Mayring.). PR-Gehälter 1993: Money. Newbury Park. Germany: Klett. 12(1). (2002). Hunt. Creedon (Ed. Feminist values in public relations. & Ummel. Dinter. Ungleich unter Gleichen. & Simmelbauer. M. L. Methoden. A bridge to the future: Re-visioning gender in communication. München. R. & Thompson. Dozier. 91–111). R. TX. 1969. Journal of Social Issues. C. Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag. Hon. and nonverbal communication. (1997). Rakow. D. 7. (1988). Sex discrimination and the affirmative action remedy: The role of sex stereotypes. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Power. Body politics. Public relations and “women’s work”: Toward a feminist analysis of public relations roles. (1979). E. (1977). 3. sex. August 1–4). E. M. 14. (1989). Journalism Educator. P. money. Journal of Public Relations Research. C. O’Neil. Meuser. Making PR macho: Reversing the sex gap in undergraduate public relations programs. M. 441–471). Ein Beitrag zur qualitativen Methodendiskussion [Expert interviews—Often conducted. Inc. A. J. L. Peters. (1993. Ross (Eds. Weingarten (Eds. 57. Englewood Cliffs. (1995). Einführung in die Qualitative Sozialforschung (5th Ed. & Grunig.. Public relations research annual (Vol. Heilman. (2004). Stuttgart.. Germany. (1991). influence.). Daten und Fakten der geschlechtsspezifischen Berufsfeldforschung [Public relations. Hopf & E.). Grunig. D. Peters. wenig bedacht.. Qualitativ-empirische Sozialforschung. B. G. Toth. S. money … [PR salaries 1993: Money. (1997). Weinheim. W. Frankfurt am Main. Paper presented at the 7th annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. (1984). J. E. Gender and newsroom cultures: Identities at work (pp. Eine explorative Studie. money. Grunig (Eds. pp. Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women’s ascent up the organizational ladder. T. . F. S. 16. E. Konzepte. Heilman. 299–312). (2003). A. L. Data and facts from gender-specific research]. University Munich. NJ: Prentice Hall. 67–84). J. (1995). 43(1). T. P.). rarely considered. A. Fröhlich. J. and gender: Helping to build a feminist theory of public relations. Fischer. 48–51.. Germany: Campus. 55. 65–77). A. (2000). pp. Mahwah. CA: Sage. Cambridge. Qualitative Sozialforschung (Orig. Giddens. Public Relations. Kraimer (Eds. In C. Inc.

. M. (1989). J.)..pdf Wrigley. & Fischer. 2005. (2001. Wienand. (2006. E. Toth. Zoonen. Wright. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. & Emig. E. B. G.. 24. 143–163. December 27). in press). Trends in public relations roles: 1990–1995. E. Lafky (Eds.). v. D. S. 315–337. Public Relations Review. van. A. Women in serious and popular journalism.. K. 14. S. A. Journal of Public Relations Research. C. from http://www. reich und berühmt! Berufsziele und Karriereerwartungen im Berufsfeld PR [Beautiful. H. Women journalists in the Western world: Equal opportunities and what surveys tell us. G. 27–55. A. Fröhlich & S. .254 FRÖHLICH AND PETERS Toth. E. & Stoltenow.. (Eds. Glass ceiling? What glass ceiling? A qualitative study of how women view the glass ceiling in public relations and communications management. San Francisco: IABC Research Foundation. London: L. Illuminating the glass ceiling: The role of organizational culture preferences. Retrieved October 26. Schön. Vianen. A. 75. L. L. (2002). In R. (1998). & Cline. wealthy and famous! Career objectives and expectations among PR professionals]. Beyond the velvet ghetto. (2002).