We sat down with Dr. Bey-Ling Sha, Dean of the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton, to discuss her research study on workplace issues in public relations. The 2005 study, “Future Professionals’ Perception of Work, Life, and Gender Issues in Public Relations,” discusses the impression public relations college students have before entering the field. Below are our interview questions and Dr. Sha’s responses.
Q: What were the major strengths and weaknesses of your study?
A: Dr. Bey-Ling Sha found a strength in her study to be the fact that they had a really robust sampling frame of all the PR SSA membership she was proud of this because in any research study having a large robust sampling frame is rare and hard to do. She found another strength to be the fact that they were asking a research question that hadn’t previously been explored. Itt was shedding light on a new topic; it set her study apart from others and set the bar above everyone’s expectations. As far as weaknesses in the study she did point out the fact that there were alot of email addresses that were not accurate as well as the timing of the survey being at the end of spring semester was problematic because some students were done with classes so they weren’t checking their student emails anymore. Leaving those students out and never participating.
To correlate our survey after hearing from Dr. Sha her complications we wanted to know how we could avoid this or any tips she would give us now that we are ready to conduct our survey.
Q: What advice would you give us going into our survey to try to avoid the same mistake?
A: Dr. Sha’s advice to us was to take advantage of close friends and family to be a part of our convenience sample. Really explain to them the project for the class as well as the research question at hand. If we do ask for emails to send it out make sure we are recording down the emails correctly
so they actually receive them as well as making the subject line * IMPORTANT STUDENT PROJECT * just so it will be hard to pass up.
Photo by: Economic Times
Q: Based on your research what types of changes in current curriculum would be most effective for students in the PR industry?
A. Dr. Sha feels that it would be really helpful for all students and not just students in the PR industry. She thinks it would be helpful for all students to have a critical thinking diversity kind of course, where you look at all demographic variables and what kind of effect that has on people. This particular study is a good example of how gender identity really impacts people’s perceptions and what salaires that they expect, but there are a whole list of other things they didn’t measure; but that would be one thing she would suggest.
Q: Despite your findings do you think when are on the right track to make an impact as much as men?
A. Dr. Sha says “That’s a really good question, but if you had asked me this question a month ago my answer would have been different, but right now what we’re seeing because of COVID and because of the political landscape things are really hard for women right now. Things are hard for a lot of people and one of those groups of people are women, between the supreme court things and all the studies showing the pressure of COVID and the lack of child care, and people having to homeschool their children, all of those things are disproportionately affecting women. But I’m going to say no because women face increasing pressure because of COVID and the political landscape and clearly we haven’t been on track because we still get paid less than men even if all the playing fields were suddenly evened out like if the equal rights amendments suddenly passed for women to paid as much as men we would still be in a situation where patriarchal attitudes or traditional attitudes are really ingrained in many places where women are fighting an uphill battle. Even with people who like to think of themselves as progressive or like to think of themselves as being not sexist, inherently what we see is there still is a lot of residual of sexixm, racism, homophism. It’s almost depressing.”
Photo by: Thoka Maer from the New York Times
Dr. Sha’s study was published 15 years ago, so as a follow-up to her study, we asked what types of changes she would see if she were to do it again.
Q: If you were to do your survey over again, would there be any different findings? Would you find something new that you didn’t think you’d find before?
A: Dr. Sha answered that one thing she thinks that would be really different is seeing more diversity in the student body. No longer are there just, ‘traditional’ college students, as in the students straight from high school in their mid 20s. She goes on to explain how there is a wide range of demographics present in today’s college students, like age diversity, and returning students. Especially now, with the economy as it is, more adults from the workforce are going back to college. So, the results would look different because the students she would be sampling are different than those she used for her study 15 years ago.
Overall, we enjoyed our interview with Dr. Bey-Ling Sha. From how to take advantage of a convenience sample to what would be most effective for PR students in the industry, Dr. Sha’s insights on conducting a survey and how she handled her own were helpful to us as we begin our own research study. It was exciting to talk to someone with so much experience, not just in the PR industry, but also in conducting research, as she has a few of her own published works to read. Using her advice, we can successfully create our own study and hopefully have as much success as she did with her results.