Advances in Applied Sociology
2012. Vol.2, No.2, 149-154
Published Online June 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Gender Domination in Nigerian Public Relations
Bonachristus Umeog u1, Ojiakor Ifeoma2
1Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
2Department of Mass Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
Email: {bonaumeogu, ojiakor99}@yahoo.c om
Received April 1st, 2012; revised April 5th, 2012; accepted April 19th, 2012
Does gender influence practice? This paper using the theory of agenda setting and constructionist theory
of representation assesses the public relations profession in relation to the value, treatment and power ac-
corded to the different gender in the course of their professional duties. It was found out that even though
there are fewer men in number, the males have more power than their female counterparts. Also, gender,
directly or indirectly influence treatment and value. This paper is highly significant in the face of the
global call for equal playing ground for both male and female in all spheres of life.
Keywords: Gender; Treatment; Value; Power
There are important developments of public relation in the
twentieth century. Among them are the growth, recognition and
acceptance of public relations as a vital communication link in
addition to, ascending the status of being a useful tool in the
hands of the government and all organizational managers in the
modern States. Again, research in PR effects have revealed that
the corporate image and identity of every organization is a de-
terminant to how its publics perceive the organization: and
gaining and keeping the support and cooperation of others
through perception is part of the day to day business of every
organization whatsoever.
This demonstrates that every organization be it government,
business, firms, labour unions, universities, non-governmental
and service organizations and even private firms has need for
PR whether as an in-house or outside services. Yet, this noble
profession has however attracted a lot of misinterpretation and
misconceptions. Some of such misconceptions are that PR is an
all comers affair; gender dominated: is all about publicity stunt:
mainly for unserious minds: and is “corporate prostitution”
especially for the female gender. That notwithstanding, the
thrust of this paper is to analysis if PR is really gender domi-
nated. However, if the answer to the question of PR being gen-
der dominated is in the affirmative, which of the gender domi-
nates and the resultant effect.
The analysis will look at the philosophical treatment: value
and power since they are among the aspects of the gender ba-
lance in public relations. It is even more surprising that PR
which is about image making is riddled with this kind of con-
ceptions or misconceptions as the case may be. They build
images and good relations for their clients and yet, as profes-
sionals have one of the worst images of an occupation not to
mention a profession.
In a nutshell, this paper amongst other things principally
aims to determine the gender distribution in PR practice in
Anambra State of Nigeria; assess the general perception of men
and women in PR; and establish whether there is a co-rela-
tionship between the understanding of PR in Nigeria as image
making or glamour and the gender distribution of PR practice.
But first we have to understand the meaning of the word “gen-
der domination”.
Quick View at the Meaning of Gender
What is meant by gender domination? According to Idiyo-
rough (2005), it
Means possession and control of power and authority and
the use of such possession against another person.
Domination as a gender issue in a patriarchal society is a
situation where men are in possession of power and au-
thority and they use these to control women to the benefits
of men. It is a situation of complete subjugation and op-
pression of women in the economic production and re-
production of children where men have controlling power
and authority. Domination in patriarchal societies include;
the power to control womens bodies, that is the power to
control womens sexuality.
In as much as I agree with Idiyorough’s explanation of gen-
der, I want to point out that the domination does not always
have to be on the male side. There are various shades of domi-
nation. There is domination by power, number, influence, privi-
leges, control etc. There are cases where the female dominate
especially in numbers. This shows that it is not the privilege of
the male sex only but male domination is more significant. Also,
it seems to be more significant because of the way the media
portray patriarchy and the stereotyped notion that women are
naturally created to be subordinate to men. However, in this
concept, gender domination tends to look at the position and
roles of the males and females in relation to the practice of
public relations in Nigeria.
What is the consequence of gender domination? As long as
there is domination, the resultant effect is discrimination. Ac-
co rding to Idiyorough ( 2005) “gender discri mination often e xi st s
where there is different treatment of individuals on the grounds
of their gender. The nature of discrimination may be personal
or systematically and structurally created for example, deter-
mination of income, access to housing facilities…” About hav-
ing access to housing facilities, I remember the story of a lady
who almost lost her accommodation because she was single and
the landlord almost denied her the flat if not that she lied that
she was engaged to a man who stays outside the country. Do
the men experience that kind of treatment? I guess not. The
landlord will feel more comfortable with a bachelor to a spin-
ster. It is that bad!
Research Methodology
This paper will use the sample survey method. Sample sur-
vey entails an investigation where only part of the research
population is studied such that the sample is representative of
the whole population (Stacks & Hocking, 1999). This involves
going to Zenith, ETB, UBA and Spring banks. In addition,
Expressor Consultancy Firm, Fegge Police Station, Nwafor
Orizu College of Education and Nnamdi Azikiwe University,
Awka all in Anambra State were all consulted through in-depth
interviews. Their views were combined with books on public
relations and documentaries of several authors on gendered
Theoretical Foundation/Literature Review
This paper will be anchored on two theories namely; the
agenda setting theory and the constructionist theory of repre-
sentation. In the course of this research, it was gathered that
there are more females than males. This resulted in choosing
the agenda setting theory to look at how the misconceptions/
conceptions came about in the first place and how the repre-
sentation of both sexes are constructed, since the concepts is a
product of the society’s construction ability.
Agenda setting theory can be said to have begun with Lip-
mann (1972) who maintained that the media are responsible for
putting pictures in our heads. Cohen (1963) in Ukwueze (2008)
went further to argue that the “media may not always be suc-
cessful in telling people what to think, but they are usually suc-
cessful in telling people what to think about”.
Agenda setting theory recognizes that the media are very
powerful when it comes to constructing social reality. This
demonstrates the power and ability of the media to determine
the way people, events and issues are perceived in a society.
This can be as a result of the fact that it is an information age
where the mass media provide a significant percentage of the
information and ideas that the people require for comprehen-
sion of happenings around them.
Lipmann (1972) stated that the media help to “put pictures in
our heads”. This statement which was made about three de-
cades ago is still very relevant in this present dispensation.
What is obtainable in the world outside might not be in conso-
nance with the pictures in our heads. What is really obtainable
in PR profession often times are in dissonance with the pictures
the media fill our heads with. No wonder Daramola (2003: p.
20) posits that “there is a relationship between news coverage
and public perception of the importance of the issue. The media
may not be successful in telling us what to think but are stun-
ningly successful in telling us what to think about”. In this case
they are equally successful in telling us what to think about
public relations practice.
This theory posits that it is how the media present men and
women that the world or audience would see them. Many peo-
ple cannot define PR or have been to a PR unit or consultancy
firm yet they supposedly can give a picture of what goes down
in those firms. How do they manage to get those mental pic-
tures? The answer is simply through the media. Another exam-
ple of the power of the media is the image of Nigerians abroad.
To a white, the name Nigerian simply means “beware” because
here is the embodiment of evil. They are known as dishonest,
primitive, robbers, ritualists etc. All these are not true of every
Nigerian or even a few Nigerians but thanks to negative report-
ing, that is the picture the whites have of Nigerians.
The problem of PR is the bad image created mostly by the
media. If only the media employing their agenda setting power
could change their contents about PR and even Banks, the pub-
lic will begin to see them in a different light and will eventually
learn to appreciate the profession and its professionals. This can
be systematically done through home movies, drama, features,
commentaries and documentari es.
Also writing on agenda setting, Okunna (2003) explains that
given the powerful role of the mass media in determining our
perception of social reality, media presentations of people and
issues have always been a subject of interest.
Understandably, the issue of presentation especially women
in the media has been a long standing gender problem in mass
The media have been accused of presenting men and women
in stereotyped and negative ways that help to keep the women
in a position of powerlessness. Stereotype here means inaccu-
rate and negative generalizations about group or individual
members, which may be used to justify certain discriminatory
behaviours. Research has also proven that what the media say
or fail to say determines how such people are perceived in the
society. In Nigeria, the home videos are/is filled with stereotype
images of women which have generated negative perception of
Nigerian women especially professionally.
In the course of this research, it was found out that there is
less number of men than women in public relations. Also, in an
attempt to establish a causal relation between the agenda setting
function of the mass media and the few presence of men in
public relations, I came to the conclusion that whatever is ob-
tainable in the larger society always have a bearing to the media.
How did we come to label engineering as a masculine profes-
sion? How did we come to the conclusion that customer service
relation is a feminine line? How did we ever imagine that pubic
relations employ more women for aesthetics? If I am to answer,
all the questions have one answer and it is through the mass
Public relation is a profession where both male and female
has the innate potentials to excel if provided an equal playing
ground. Through the media and its contents, I believe that many
men are discouraged from entering the feminized profession
thereby leading to the decline in the masculine presence in the
public relations room.
The second theory is the constructionist theory of representa-
tion. This theory which was made popular by Hall (2000) posits
that meaning is a construction. According to Hall, meaning is
constructed by the individual users of language. Things don’t
mean: we construct meaning using representational systems of
concepts and signs. The translatability is not given by nature or
fixed by the gods rather it is a result of a set of social conven-
tions. It is defined socially, fixed in culture. This particular
theory is all about visual communication. If a picture or image
that we construct is worth a thousand words, then we will un-
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
derstand the relationship of this theory to this research work.
The main point is that meaning does not inhere in things but is
constructed and pro d uc e d as a result of signifying practices.
This theory acknowledges that men and women are involved
in constructing their own gendered identities. How do I mean?
Cooper 1998 in Ojiakor (2010) notes that our understanding of
gender is dynamic, changing overtime with maturity, expe rienc e
and reflection. Who made the change in understanding? It is
either a man or a woman which means that it is not the gods
that apportion gender roles. Let me give an example, Sean
Nixon 2000 in Ojiakor (2010) researched on men and mascu-
linity and found out something interesting. Before now, child-
care has been the sole gender role of femininity but he found
adverts of a man cuddling a baby which was a first. This means
that the age long notion of women and babies are changing.
Who initiated that perception change? In my opinion, it might
be the advertising agency who wanted to come up with a cam-
paign that is relatively new. This goes a long way to show that
human beings are active in constructing their gendered iden-
This theory is also related to this study as a result of the fact
that gender domination and its other half discrimination is a
product of social construction. Writing on this, Idiyorough
(2005) posits that
Gender discrimination is socially constructed. That is to
say the process of thinking, feeling and acting towards
women negatively or positively is conceived and socially
expressed and maintained within the home/family, the
peer group, the community, the workplace, the school, the
worship centre, and the political arena.
He went on to explain why gender discrimination is a social
construction by writing that
Gender roles are socially learned within the family, the
peer group, the work place, the worship centre, and the
political arena. Learning of gender roles takes place wi-
thin the family; where mother/wife, father/husband, son/
daughter, boy/girl roles are acquired through socialize-
tion and re-socialization. This is the process by which
gender is socially constructed in Nigeria.
A Quick Look at Public Relations
One of the fathers of public relations Edward Bernay quoted
in saw public relations as an ap-
plied social science that uses insights from psychology, socio-
logy, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipu-
late the thinking and behavior of an irrational and “herd like”
The summary of what PR is all about is that it is mind
management without misinforming or disinforming the public.
This point is also buttressed by Bernay when he wrote that “the
conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits
and opinions of the masses is an important element in democra-
tic society”.
A writer at went a step fur-
ther by defining and explaining PR thus:
Public relations (PR) is the art of managing communica-
tion between an organization and its key publics to build,
manage, and sustain a positive image. Public relations
involves evaluation of public attitudes and public opinions;
formulation and implementation of an organizations pro-
cedures and policy regarding communication with its
publics; coordination of communications programs; de-
veloping rapport and good-will through a two way com-
munication process; and fostering a positive relationship
between an organization and its public constituents. Pub-
lic relations often involve news management—optimizing
good news and forestalling bad news. Equally, good pub-
lic relations managers conduct damage control when a
disaster occurs, gathering the facts and assessing the
situation to prepare appropriate information to be offered
to the mass media.
That was a lengthy quote but it was able to sum up the basics
of Public Relations and its practice.
PR and Gender
Gender! Gender!! Gender!!! When we say gender, our mind
usually goes to women alone, but gender and its resultant issues
involve both men and women and the power relations between
Robinson (2005) writes that gender matters in research and
everyday life which means that gender does not only play a
crucial role in everyday life, but also the ways in which culture
and language affect professional behaviour. It has been said by
gender scholars that every person has two simultaneous version
of self which includes an inner private sexual identity and the
outer social and public gender identity. While the former is
determined by genes and biology, the latter is defined by the
society. According to Reeves and Basden (2000),
Gender is how a persons biology is culturally valued and
interpreted into locally accepted ideas of what it is to be a
woman or man.
This reveals that gender however is not the fixed attribute of
an individual, but is “socially constructed” through cultural
norm that spells out in codes women’s “proper role” in the so-
ciety. Gender focuses on both women and men and on the rela-
tionship between them. That is, it highly acknowledges that
gender and what it stands for are socially constructed rather
than being determined by biology. It is not about being a male
or female but, wha t being a male or female e n tails.
General usage of the term ‘Gender” began in the late 1960s
and 1970s, increasingly appearing in the professional literature
of the social sciences. The term came to serve a useful purpose
in distinguishing those aspects of life that are most easily attri-
buted or understood to be of social rather than biological origin
(Unger & Crawford 1992 in Diamond, 2000).
Coming to PR and gender proper, research in 1973 previous
findings as was gathered in the course of this research, revealed
that there were more males than female practitioners. Today
however, female practitioners outnumber the males. Recent
statistics shows that there is now female gender domination in
PR. A look at some banks, consultancy firms and two higher
institutions by this researcher confirms this claim.
Macdonald (2007) outlines the following reasons as why
there are more females than male in PR.
Women are better communicators than men;
PR pays better than any other female dominated field.
I don’ t know if that is applicable in Nigeria, so there is a
need for a comparative study to ascertain if this claim is uni-
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 151
versal or country specific.
Women find PR more welcoming than other business disci-
Take a look at most mass communication department in Ni-
gerian universities; there are always more females to men. I
also believe that this domination in the department by number
accounts for the nu m be r domination in the field.
While women are in the Arts, the men are pushed to the
At this point, also take a look at the engineering faculties and
departments of our higher institutions. While the men domi-
nates in engineering, the females call the shots in the arts and
From the above, we can now understand why Grung (2001)
Can PR become a professional where individual talents
are perceived independently of ge nder because no thought-
ful discussion of the PR industry can proceed without
examining the feminization of the work force.
Gender Domination Analysis
From time immemorial, researchers have always strived to
understand gender based differences in pay packets, unequal
access to health, education, insurance promotion rates and the
leadership structure in the top communication role. However,
this paper will assess the value, power and treatment since they
are among the aspects of gender balance argument.
Unequal Power
How much power do men and women wield in an organiza-
tion? Robinson (2005) writes that
Womens work is systematically structured by gender and
these biases are imported into organizational struc- tures.
This importation is not innocent but negatively af- fects
the way in which females are able to wield power in the
organizational setting.
Position automatically goes with power with means that the
higher you go, the more power that you will possess. In other
words, the status of one determines the power. Status can be
defined according to Robinson (2005) as either professional
through the kind of job you do or hierarchically through the
position one occupies in the organization. In her research, she
found out that women are found in the middle, and this auto-
matically affects the power they wield. This is in consonance
with this researchers finding because all the firms and organiza-
tion have men at the top where they make all the decisions
thereby maintaining their patriarchy. When it comes to rela-
tionship and power, the both sexes seem to be on equal par, but
when it is structural, the scale tilt towards the males. Why? This
research wanted to find out from the field the reason for this
situation. This is what Idiyorough (2005) meant by gender
stratification and addressed it by commenting that
Gender stratification refers to the various layers that
exist between men and women in their access to privileges,
prestige, power and authority. Generally, it is men that
occupy higher layers in access to privileges, prestige,
power and authority available in the society. It is the men
that decide what, when and how. It always exists where
there is patriarchy, discrimination and gender gap.
The practitioners couldn’t explain why mostly the men are at
the top. This does not mean that there are no females occupying
management position. At the time of this research, a woman is
the Head of Service at Zenith bank; and the Assistant Head of
Service at ETB. At spring bank, it was revealed that there is no
permanent person for the post but subject to productivity fol-
lowing appraisal. The fact is that their number is insignificant
as against that of the men. It was gathered that a “good” per-
formance might elevate one to human resources manager.
How is good performance measured? Is it in the number of
years in the organization as in years of experience or in produc-
tion outputs as in clients’ portfolio? There seemed to be a ge-
neral conspiracy not to divulge reasons but a fleeting glance
revealed that the top position saw men who looked older. Does
it mean they have been in the system long before the women
came on board? Does it account for the difference in the power
wielded? I think it calls for more research to answer the unan-
swered questions.
Inequality of Value
What is value? How can value be measured? What profes-
sional cadres do women occupy in the sampled organizations?
Well, when it comes to number, the ratio of female to males
was about 7:3. I think that pay packet and position are major
determinants in proving worth and value. Even though there are
more females, men continue to hold proportionately more of the
managerial PR posts. This might account for the salary differ-
ence which is one of the gender issues of concern. Salary de-
pend on status in the organization a staff at level nine cannot
have the same figures as another in level four. It is all about the
levels and the cadres. Your position determines your pay
Are the women bothered? Well, most of them are happy that
they have been able to break out from the shackles of house-
wife role and femininity where society relegated them. There
was a time when it was unheard of to be working in a corporate
environment; when women took pride in being housewives.
Well, gone are those days.
Addressing this issue, Betty Freidan’s the feminine mystique
(1963) criticized the idea that women could only find fulfill-
ment through childbearing and home making. She hypothesizes
that through no fault of theirs, women are victims of as false
belief system that requires them to find identity, purpose,
meaning and satisfaction in their lives through their husbands
and children. This according to her has made women’s work
less meaningful and less valuable.
Do the so called practitioners even know what public relation
entails? At the two institutions visited, the PR department was
filled with staff mostly women (surprisingly, they were ad-
vanced in age too) while the PRO were male. According to the
women when asked about their job functions, it entails keeping
records, gathering information for the schools periodicals and
other menial jobs that have nothing to do with PR. The re-
searcher learnt that they were not asked to go for marketing or
scout for clients accounts. According to one interviewee, “we
are just here for writing and clerical purposes”.
A point worthy of note is that what we have at the banks and
consultancy firms were different altogether with the higher
institutions. Others have younger staff while advanced women
were mostly in the hi gher institution. To answer the question of
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
if they really understands their job specification, the answer is
no. I think that they confuse PR department with Information
office. At the only police Station visited, it has a PRO with no
clear cut PR department. However, it was gathered that a func-
tional PR department is at the State headquarters. It was also
learnt that the major job specification of the PRO is to make
public the stand of the commission or comment on case(s) that
attract public attention.
With the revelation that most of the staff had no idea of what
public relations is in the first place, the researcher came to un-
derstand the genesis of the conception that Public Relations is
an all comers affair. It was further gathered that the reason for
this is that of scarcity of jobs. One is considered lucky to have
gotten one despite that name it is called as long as it pays the
bill at the end of the month. Also, they go for intra transfer, that
is, one might be transferred from the marketing unit to human
resources or operations as the need arises.
Unequal Treatment
In every rumour, there must be an atom of truth; just like the
old saying that there can never be smoke without f ire. Wha t am
I trying to say? This can be said to be the case of gender treat-
ment all in the name of public relations. Yes, the media por-
trays women in the corporate circle generally as corporate pros-
titutes and are used as baits to lure customers. In few cases,
they are given as gratification to big time customers to retain
them. This claim is not unfounded. According to a staff at one
of the so called new generation banks, she pointed out that the
managers know the willing ones and are used for such.
For some others, they can aid their promotion through spe-
cial benefits. It all boils down to survival of the fittest. Another
from another organization (speaking from a personal expe-
rience) revealed that the way one comports herself/himself in-
fluences how you are perceived. Being used as a bait or “thank
you” is a personal thing because some women actually crave
for it because they see it as the fastest way of climbing the lad-
der. Others who are not game will mildly refuse but will make
up by working extra hard. That is probably why they have not
been relieved of their duties. To the question of sexual harass-
ment, the response was that it is all about carriage and com-
Why do they always employ fine ladies and gents? Does
outward beauty equate intelligence to smartness? A managing
director at a PR consultancy firm was of the opinion that every
organization need clients, customers and accounts to survive
and they therefore employ sharp women to attract customers
because it is believed that the big customers are mostly men,
and there is a predominant stereotype that men have “light
brain” when it comes to pretty women. The same happens with
women and handsome gentlemen. Writing on stereotype,
Pickering (2001) explains that
What remains crucial to the critique of stereotype is not
only the question of who speaks for whom and with what
consequences, but also how stereotype relate to concep-
tions of what is held to be natural or normal”, how
they create and sustain common sense of the proper limits
of what is accepted as legitimate and right.
This insight could be the reason why female PR in specific
and practitioners’ in general are misconstrued negatively. Here,
it all boils down again to world outside and pictures in our
heads. Are the pictures real, and to what extent?
On how he treats the female members of his staff, he re-
sponded that he respects them as long as they justify their sala-
ries. It was more like “do what you have to do, it is your life”.
A bank manager actually said that if you can sleep with a man
for pleasure; what then is the difference between that and doing
it for business gains. After all, the end justifies the means.
Morrisey in Eluwa (1999) is of the opinion that PR has the
worst image of any occupation let alone profession. Since it all
boils down to image problem, this paper recommends re orient-
tation of the public as a whole. This cannot be remedied by the
media alone. All hands must be on deck. The practitioners on
their part since their job involves media relations should maxi-
mize the media to their advantage and change the stereotyped
images of the public. The causes of these stereotypes and mis-
conceptions in some cases are rooted in our social structures. It
is within the power of the media to stimulate the desired change
through embracing positivity.
Furthermore, people are greatly influenced positively or
negatively by what they see; and what they see is what they
believe. What I am trying to say is that the pictures in the heads
of most people are negative about females in PR and bankers in
general. This is because they believe that at some point, they
cut corners to be on track. After all, the media try to reflect the
patterns of our daily life. In other words, most of what we see is
true. The practitioners have to conduct themselves in a classy
manner to be true to its name. Above all, this paper recom-
mends n equal playing ground for both sexes. That is, equality
at work, value, power, treatment and control over resources.
On a conclusive note, does gender influence practice? Does
the fact that PR is a gendered profession change anything? The
answer is that if the people are matured about it, it does not
change anything. This is because while the women dominate in
number, the men dominate in power and so on and so forth.
Male or female, boy and girl are all blessed with unique talents
that will make the world a better place. One cannot do without
the other so why the hassle. Let both sexes know their bounda-
ries and co exist and complement so as to maximize one an-
other’s potentials. I want to close with the words of Ingrid
Tharasook who wrote that “I don’t mind living in a man’s
world as long as I can be a woman in it”; and ipso facto, it must
also be said, by function of the male gender: “I don’t mind
living in a woman’s world as long as I can be a man in it”. The
problem is that in many a man’s world, women have been made
men; and in many a woman’s world, men have been made
women. That should not be so. For, “he who made them from
the beginning made the male and the fema le”.
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