In-house PR roles preferred despite believing agencies had more gender-equal pay

The communication industry is grappling with issues around gender pay gap, said a new report by Prospect and PublicAffairsAsia. Among the 420 communications and corporate affairs professionals polled in Asia Pacific, the perception was that agencies (75%) had a better level playing field between genders than in-house when it came to salary. Yet, both agency and in-house practitioners prefer to be working in-house in their next career move.

The report's findings also show that men earn 15% more on average than women. The average salary was US$155,000 for the men and US$135,000 for the women, pointing to a pay disparity of US$20,000.

While 54% of those polled said that the industry as a whole does not treat both genders equally on pay, responses were more positive when asked the same question about their own organisations. About 57% believe their company did pay men and women equally.

Meanwhile, bonus levels across the industry in APAC were running at 22% of base salary in 2018, with in-house corporate bonuses running at 25% and agency-side professionals securing an average of 19%. Overall, signs indicate that the pay, benefits and bonus levels remain buoyant in APAC, with average regional salaries of US$143,000 in 2018. Average pay rises recorded in 2018 were 7% when employees remained in the same job, with those moving to a new company securing slightly larger increases.

Choosing in-house over agency

Despite the findings, it appears that many agency folks would prefer to move to an in-house role. Some 45% of agency professionals want to move to in-house next, but only 8% would prefer to move from their existing agency to another. This is a sharp reduction since the last "State of the Industry Report", when 19% of agency staff said they would prefer their next move to be to another agency.

The same sentiment mirrored among in-house practitioners, with more than half of them planning to make a move to another in-house role. Also, 34% said they are happy to remain in their existing role for now. Only 3% surveyed said they wanted to move to an agency.

PublicAffairsAsia vice president Mark O’Brien said, “Among agencies there is still clearly work to do to prevent staff wanting to move in-house. The report highlights a number of ways agencies are changing to enhance retention levels, but it’s still clear that once practitioners move to an in-house role they are very reluctant to consider moving back to an agency job.”

Also in the report, there are signs that professionals are losing a sense of ambition. Half of all professionals surveyed said they were not actively seeking promotion and a third said they did not want to move into a leadership position. Some 6% said they planned to leave the industry altogether.

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