Unequal opportunity: Experience and expectation of 21st century maternity provision in the communications workplace

Susan Kinnear, Tess Lhermitte-Russell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The communications industry faces a recruitment crisis. Despite the pivot to hybrid working and the ever-increasing number of young people opting to study the discipline, over half of recruiters in the public sector and three quarters of those recruiting for agencies struggle to fill vacancies. This chapter examines these trends from a radical feminist perspective, arguing the communications industry is squandering young, female talent by failing both new entrants and mothers returning to work after childbirth. This analysis is based on a series of surveys undertaken between 2020 and 2022 to examine the expectations and lived experience of women, and in particular communications students and mothers, working in or aspiring to work in the sector. Over 73% of the women surveyed had experienced gender-based discrimination and harassment, and 66% had been forced to choose between their careers and having a child. Of the young entrants to the profession surveyed, 88% believed becoming a mother would negatively impact their career, while 32% had experienced discrimination while undertaking their student placement. Analysis of these data indicates the sector faces a crisis of its own making by failing to provide a workplace culture worth working in. The chapter concludes only a direct challenge to male hegemony can redress the gender imbalance, free up talent to meet skills shortages and provide lasting change for women working in communications. It offers a series of recommendations for how professional bodies can address these issues and empower young women to achieve the career outcomes they deserve.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen's Work in Public Relations
EditorsElizabeth Bridgen, Sarah Williams
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781804555385
ISBN (Print)9781804555408, 9781804555392
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2024


  • Communications recruitment crisis
  • Feminist research
  • Gender
  • Maternity provision
  • Radical feminism
  • Sexual discrimination in PR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Economics,Econometrics and Finance
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • General Social Sciences


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