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‘You really struggle not to come across as bitchy if you are trying to be authoritative’ – blokishness, habitus, behaviour and career experiences of women in public relations

‘You really struggle not to come across as bitchy if you are trying to be authoritative’ –... This study aims to analyse the position of women in public relations (PR), using Bourdieu's habitus. The study also draws from works on women in journalism on the ‘bloke-ification’ or a situation where women have to behave like men to succeed, thus becoming one of the boys due to masculine habitus in mass communications organisations.Design/methodology/approachQualitative interviews were conducted with 26 women practitioners asking questions about their experiences of working in the PR industry. The triple coding was conducted holistically and cross-referencing against answers on early socialisation of interviewed women. Thematic analysis was used to analyse and present data.FindingsThe findings show acceptance of masculine habitus with women not always challenging the usual order of things and recognising only direct sexism but not every day (masculine) practices. Women who demonstrate feminine behavioural styles are more likely to have negative working experiences than women who demonstrate masculine behavioural styles. Findings show a link between early socialisation and organisational behaviour with women who were socialised with boys reporting more masculine behavioural traits as expected for career progression as opposed to women socialised with girls who report feminine characteristics. The findings also signal that women work in a masculine culture in which they are often ostracised, and the profession as a whole is ridiculed by male managers and senior officials despite women being the majority of the workforce in the PR industry, thus showing that women also work in what Bourdieu calls a (masculine) habitus.Research limitations/implicationsThis study remains limited regarding its qualitative aspect of 26 interviewed women. Whilst this is a relatively large sample for a qualitative study, these findings show trends in data that can be explored in further research but cannot be generalised. In addition to that, phone interviewing presents a limitation of the study as face-to-face interviews could have enabled a better rapport and a more in-depth conversation as well as an observation of non-verbal communication, which could have led to additional sub-questions. Also, the findings are based on perceptions of interviewed women, which are personal and do not necessarily need to present the reality in the whole of the industry, however, the thematic analysis revealed common patterns which point towards the direction of a wider issue in the industry, which can be explored in further research.Practical implicationsOrganisations should implement HR policies that regulate internal office behaviour so that no staff member or department feels unappreciated and has less influence over the organisational work. A greater focus on treating employees fairly is needed, and this change needs to include structural problems that are often hidden, such as remarks in offices and internal practice and the dynamic between different departments bearing attention to departments where senior roles are traditionally given to men (e.g. finance) and those where senior roles also have women managers (e.g. PR).Originality/valueThe paper contributes to studies of cultural masculinities in organisations from a sociological perspective and uses a case study of the PR industry. The paper further extends the bloke-ification framework and contributes towards the conceptualisation of this framework from the PR perspective and using a sociological approach. In addition to that, the paper drew from works conducted in journalism and advertising and showed that issues women face are very similar across industries, thus opening a question of a wider social problem, at least when mass communications industries are in stake. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior Emerald Publishing

‘You really struggle not to come across as bitchy if you are trying to be authoritative’ – blokishness, habitus, behaviour and career experiences of women in public relations

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References (49)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
1093-4537
DOI
10.1108/ijotb-03-2021-0052
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This study aims to analyse the position of women in public relations (PR), using Bourdieu's habitus. The study also draws from works on women in journalism on the ‘bloke-ification’ or a situation where women have to behave like men to succeed, thus becoming one of the boys due to masculine habitus in mass communications organisations.Design/methodology/approachQualitative interviews were conducted with 26 women practitioners asking questions about their experiences of working in the PR industry. The triple coding was conducted holistically and cross-referencing against answers on early socialisation of interviewed women. Thematic analysis was used to analyse and present data.FindingsThe findings show acceptance of masculine habitus with women not always challenging the usual order of things and recognising only direct sexism but not every day (masculine) practices. Women who demonstrate feminine behavioural styles are more likely to have negative working experiences than women who demonstrate masculine behavioural styles. Findings show a link between early socialisation and organisational behaviour with women who were socialised with boys reporting more masculine behavioural traits as expected for career progression as opposed to women socialised with girls who report feminine characteristics. The findings also signal that women work in a masculine culture in which they are often ostracised, and the profession as a whole is ridiculed by male managers and senior officials despite women being the majority of the workforce in the PR industry, thus showing that women also work in what Bourdieu calls a (masculine) habitus.Research limitations/implicationsThis study remains limited regarding its qualitative aspect of 26 interviewed women. Whilst this is a relatively large sample for a qualitative study, these findings show trends in data that can be explored in further research but cannot be generalised. In addition to that, phone interviewing presents a limitation of the study as face-to-face interviews could have enabled a better rapport and a more in-depth conversation as well as an observation of non-verbal communication, which could have led to additional sub-questions. Also, the findings are based on perceptions of interviewed women, which are personal and do not necessarily need to present the reality in the whole of the industry, however, the thematic analysis revealed common patterns which point towards the direction of a wider issue in the industry, which can be explored in further research.Practical implicationsOrganisations should implement HR policies that regulate internal office behaviour so that no staff member or department feels unappreciated and has less influence over the organisational work. A greater focus on treating employees fairly is needed, and this change needs to include structural problems that are often hidden, such as remarks in offices and internal practice and the dynamic between different departments bearing attention to departments where senior roles are traditionally given to men (e.g. finance) and those where senior roles also have women managers (e.g. PR).Originality/valueThe paper contributes to studies of cultural masculinities in organisations from a sociological perspective and uses a case study of the PR industry. The paper further extends the bloke-ification framework and contributes towards the conceptualisation of this framework from the PR perspective and using a sociological approach. In addition to that, the paper drew from works conducted in journalism and advertising and showed that issues women face are very similar across industries, thus opening a question of a wider social problem, at least when mass communications industries are in stake.

Journal

International Journal of Organization Theory and BehaviorEmerald Publishing

Published: May 23, 2023

Keywords: Women; Public relations; Blokishness; Habitus; Behaviour; Socialisation

There are no references for this article.