Global survey highlights ageism as a major issue in PR industry

Published 9th Feb 2023

Global Women in PR Announces the Results of its 2022 Annual Index

Global Women in PR Annual Index 2022

Gender discrimination in the PR workplace remains a key contributor to the lack of senior female leaders in the industry. However the findings of the GWPR 2022 Annual Index research surprisingly revealed that discrimination on the grounds of ageism is almost as widespread.

Of the 53% of female PR professionals who claim to have faced discrimination in the workplace, 27% said this was based on gender discrimination, closely followed by age discrimination (23%). By contrast discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, disability, religion and sexual orientation were experienced by 5% or less of respondents.

For those facing discrimination, the major impact on their career was being overlooked for a promotion or pay rise (53%). Confidence and wellbeing were also badly affected (46%).

A stark revelation was the level of ageism prevalent in PR agencies. Two-thirds of women currently working in PR agencies could not see themselves being there beyond the age of 50. By contrast 56% of in-house PRs plan to stay in the same sector of the comms industry.

62% of survey respondents stated that their companies had diversity and inclusion policies in place rising to 74% among those working in-house. Gender equality was the most common target highlighted (62%), but only 37% set age targets in their policies – much lower than disability (54%) and sexual orientation (51%).

GWPR Co-founder Angela Oakes commenting on the findings said “Ageism is clearly a real problem in the PR industry. We pay lip service to wanting a diverse workforce, but the reality is very different. We also have a major issue around retaining talent and this surely can’t help.”

“So how do we try and reverse this trend? Flexible working can help. We think of childcare as a major issue for women in relation to career progression and work life balance, but the other responsibility that comes with age is caring for elderly parents. In addition employers need to change their recruitment policies. Many middle aged women don’t get beyond stage one of the recruitment process.”

This is the fourth edition of the GWPR Annual Index, designed to track and measure the position of women working in the PR and Communications industry globally. In partnership with strategic insight agency Opinium, the 2022 survey questionnaire covered flexible working, the barriers to women reaching the boardroom, the career impact of being a parent and discrimination in the workplace.

The most significant change relating to women in PR that we have measured over the last four years relates to flexible working. In 2022, 92% of PR women were working flexibly and these women anticipate this will not change in the future. In particular remote working has seen a sharp increase + 35% since 2020. Over the next 12 months PR women say they expect to be working remotely 2.8 days a week. 


  • The Covid pandemic has dramatically changed the way PR women work
  • Flexible (92%) and remote working (81%) are here to stay for the future
  • Both provide golden opportunities for women with a whole range of benefits – 71% believe it allows for caring responsibilities while progressing career
  • Employers’ attitudes to flexible working is also changing, with a higher recognition of the positive benefits – 2/3 now view positively
  • However gender equality in the boardroom remains elusive. Despite the industry being two-thirds female – in the boardroom these figures are reversed
  • 50% of women with children are particularly discriminated against in terms of career progression 
  • Age discrimination in the workplace is widespread and is not being acknowledged
  • There is still a lot to be done by organisations in terms of D&I policies and training – only 1/3 of companies include age targets in their policies


Register for your copy of the 2022 Annual Index here

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Survey methodology

Responses were collected via an online survey designed by Opinium which was distributed by Global Women in PR through their global network. 

Fieldwork took place between August and September 2022. 

We spoke to 437 PR women representing 35 countries around the world – two-thirds were at Director level and half of the women responding had children. There was an equal split between women working in agency and in-house communications.