Women's Day: How women leaders are making a mark in the Indian PR industry

The future of the PR industry clearly includes many female leaders, and the forecasted figures only point towards an unprecedented perpetual increase.

The public relations (PR) industry in India is dynamic and continues to grow at a double-digit rate in 2020. According to a report by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India, the overall industry is set to touch ₹ 2,100 crore by the end of fiscal year 2020. A majority of the growth is expected from traditional public relations, with the contribution from digital, social media, and content-driven campaigns estimated as high as 25 percent.

From holding executive and managerial positions, women are gradually making their presence felt at a higher leadership level. In 2014, the World PR Report stated that women constitute 60-85 percent of all PR jobs globally, but women managed only 30 percent of all global PR agencies. In 2019, with progressive economic growth, expansive global markets, technology innovations, and the flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem, women from the media and entertainment background are coming forward to create a collaborative or independent service agency.

Women in leadership roles have demonstrated exceptional business growth potential across sectors. From Arundhati Bhattacharya, the former Chairman of the SBI and the first woman to hold the post, and Naina Lal Kidwai, former Group Head of HSBC India in banking to Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico in FMCG, and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson and Director of Biocon Ltd., as an entrepreneur, Indian women leaders have recently made their presence felt globally.

A global study by workplace research group Catalyst surveyed 353 Fortune 500 companies and found that the highest representation of women in senior management reflected a higher return of equities. The PR industry, with a massive percentile of women executives, is also waking up to women leaders in C-suite and entrepreneurial roles.

Some key factors contributing to this include:

Changes in corporate fabric

With more women leaders heading the corporate and entrepreneurial world, there have been paradigm shifts in the way women have been perceived in the professional environment. From preconceived notions that limited the participation of women in certain roles to now a wider acceptance of their talents and capabilities across segments, the corporate and professional fabric of the country has rapidly changed in the past decade. This has helped create a more encouraging environment for women to hone their leadership skills and gain opportunities for growth.

Government policies for women entrepreneurs

Apart from supportive professional environment, several positive government policies for women entrepreneurs are leading to the accelerated growth of women leaders. From taxation benefits and special lending rates on loans etc., pro-entrepreneurial policies for women also include specific skill-based trainings and opportunities for higher learning, etc.

Professionally safe environment

With new age corporate laws around gender discrimination and sexual harassment, women today have a strong privilege for security and enjoy a relatively safer and healthy work environment. Additionally, with special supportive provisions like maternity benefits and provision for baby daycare centres within corporate premises for women employees, more women are now able to pursue their careers without any hurdles.

Access to mentorship

With all the above factors, one major driving growth of women leaders across segments, including in PR, is the access to mentors and professional networking platforms. Although corporate groups like FICCI Flo and the women’s wing of the IMC have been offering a nurturing platform for women entrepreneurs for many years, these have been limited to only women groups. The rise of platforms like BNI and other concentrated networking and mentorship platforms are offering women equal benefits and opportunities to grow and seek mentorship and collaboration.

While there has been a considerable paradigm shift in people’s perceptions and acceptance of women in leadership roles, women professionals are able to flourish and pursue their professional dream in a more supportive environment.

Society, too, as a whole, has started noticing women with multiple roles without the weak crutch of stereotypes guiding them forward. Families take pride in the fact that their women are sometimes the sole bread earners and laud their ambitious traits.

The way forward

Even as leading national and international PR agencies and brands embark on a new era of integrated communications across myriad channels, from digital and OTT to audio and podcasts, more women leaders, with dynamic capabilities to drive successful campaigns, are taking over the boardrooms, and driving conversations around workplace equality, diversity and safer, gender neutral workplaces. The future of the PR industry clearly includes many female leaders, and the forecasted figures only point towards an unprecedented perpetual increase.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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