To read this content please select one of the options below:

Barriers to networking for women in a UK professional service

Jane Tonge (Marketing and Retail Division, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 3 October 2008




The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of personal contact networks in the UK public relations sector, focusing on the barriers to networking identified by practitioners.


Empirical research using qualitative methodologies of in‐depth interviews and repertory grids conducted with directors, managers and executives in seven UK public relations agencies.


UK public relations practitioners in the study may face up to 17 barriers to networking drivers and actions. Three types of barriers emerged–psychological, situational and social. Female practitioners identified all 17 barriers to networking, whereas men identified seven.

Research limitations/implications

An insight into the differences in men and women's networking experiences in a growing professional service, especially those negatively influencing their activities. Gender differences are identified and the apparent exclusion from power networks, especially of younger females.

Practical implications

UK public relations practitioners may be hindered in the key managerial area of networking, with women perceiving themselves to face more barriers than men. This poses challenges for practitioners to overcome such obstacles, especially for women in this female‐dominated industry. Consultancies must consider remedial strategies to counter barriers their employees face, or potentially limit their access to resources and influence which personal networks can bring.


The paper is one of the first studies into personal contact networks in the UK public relations industry. It reveals the extent to which both men and women in this professional service face barriers to networking. The paper identifies that women in particular may experience more than twice as many barriers as male counterparts and suggests younger women may be being placed at a disadvantage.



Tonge, J. (2008), "Barriers to networking for women in a UK professional service", Gender in Management, Vol. 23 No. 7, pp. 484-505.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles