There was a flurry of interest earlier this year in the CIPR survey which revealed that although PR is a largely female-dominated industry, fewer women than men occupy really senior positions. I’m getting interested in another nugget of information buried in the survey – the age profile of PRs with in-house roles compared to freelancers.
Apparently “by far the greatest percentage (50%) of in-house … members are aged between 25 and 34. Practitioners aged 45-60 significantly dominate the freelance sector, with 51% of freelancers within this age range.”
That feels perfectly understandable. PR is a discipline that suits freelancing brilliantly. Armed with a laptop, a broadband connection and a mobile you can work when and where you want – a boon for women juggling work and childcare. I’m starting to think that there may be a more sinister element to this, though I could just be paranoid.
There have always been rumours that recruitment consultancies don’t take candidates in their 40s seriously. My experience and that of friends and contemporaries certainly seems to bear that out at the moment. I apply for the occasional interim job to mix it up with the freelancing. Rather than being proud of the 20+ years on my CV and the huge range of experience that I can offer an employer, I’m starting to wonder what I can cut so that I don’t end up on the she’s-older-than-God pile before I have chance to talk to them. Are there so many freelancers over 40 because we can’t get anything more permanent?
Ironically, being 40+ should be an advantage these days. As the population ages communicators need to reach a mature and media-savvy audience which won’t accept being patronised or pigeonholed. I’m doing some work at the moment for a client who’s putting together a health campaign aimed at people over 55. They have smart campaigning ideas, a track record in generating fantastic creative work and great technical expertise in delivery, but they’re planning a campaign that risks turning off a sizeable chunk of its target audience because they don’t understand it.
I fondly remember being 27, single and childless. I had no possible idea what it might be like to be middle-aged, coping with children, job and mortgage, occasionally waving at my similarly harassed husband as we pass on the stairs, one to make dinner, the other to pick up a child from cubs. I certainly had no idea how it might feel to face getting older. Those are increasingly common experiences. Understanding them should be a huge advantage. One of my industry heroines, Jilly Forster , has been stressing this point for years. I’m watching the progress of Forster’s AGEncy with interest – and it already seems to be paying dividends for them. Others please note!