To mark International Women’s Day 2018, Global Women in Public Relations asked 18 senior women working in PR and communications to share their pledges to #pressforprogress in 2018.
Working in boardrooms of major global corporates, or at the top of PR agencies around the world, they are ideally placed to drive change. They’re also committed to ensuring that women are heard, encouraged, promoted and given every opportunity to take their places, in their turn, at the very top of their professions.
What has struck us most in gathering these pledges is the power that these (and many more) women wield in the world of communications. They have a voice and they’re using it to proactively drive change. The world will look very different for the next generation of women who aspire to work at the very top of their professions. With such brilliant role models above them, they know that the door to the board room is open to them and it’s up to them to take a seat at the table.
We’ll be sharing our pledges to #pressforprogress all through International Women’s Day 2018. Share these pledges too, make your own pledge and share it with us and continue to press for progress on equality whenever and wherever you can.
- Who pressed for your progress? When I was 20 years old I was awarded a full scholarship for an educational exchange program to Finland to study international business and I almost turned it down out of fear. My father didn’t let me walk away from this opportunity and he always encouraged me to be ambitious. When I was 21 years old in my first corporate job as an assistant, I was given a seat at the boardroom table alongside the CEO. She encouraged me to carefully listen and engage in the conversation. I didn’t feel that my voice wasn’t heard.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? I encourage other women to have the confidence to know their personal worth and show results within their career. I urge women to demonstrate value and be able to confidently explain their personal capital to their company. I want women to understand the importance of creating meaningful connections and build a support network to help each other succeed.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? I’m inviting women to join me at meetings and events with industry leaders so that I can lead by example. I’m promoting the idea of job sharing in the workplace for women (and men!) who need flexibility to manage family obligations. I’m talking openly about women’s earning potential to ensure others are getting what they are worth.
Bibi Hilton, Managing Director, Golin and President, Women in PR, UK
- Who pressed for your progress? Matt Neale, Golin’s CEO, has been my boss and my mentor for the past 11 years. He has constantly put new challenges and new roles in front of me and given me the confidence and support to take them on, even when I doubted my own ability.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? Seven years ago I started mentoring a sixth form student through a school partnership Golin had created. Our mentor/ mentee relationship has gone from working on her UCAS personal statement and A-level French to helping her find work experience, apply for graduate programmes and finally starting her first role. I hope she feels I pressed for her progress. I definitely aimed to do that and I’m very proud of what she has achieved.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? Press for more women in PR to take on leadership positions via my role as President of Women in PR and continue to ensure Golin has one of the most progressive workplaces in our industry.
Renee Wilson, President of the PR Council
- Who pressed for your progress? I believe my ‘progress pressing’ was multi-faceted. When I was younger, growing up in the 80s, I honestly felt it was odd how women were perceived compared to men in that perhaps not all opportunities were for both genders. I remember thinking that was strange but searched and found female role models on TV shows growing up that gave me an idea of what was possible. Then, when I entered the workforce, several great business women, at various points in my career, reached down and helped to pull me up. Two in particular were business dynamos and were the perfect role models for someone like me who wanted to learn. One took a complete risk with me and transferred me overseas for a four-year assignment that changed my career forever, and changed me.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? Ever since I’ve been in a position of leadership, I’ve looked for ways to empower young women and give them opportunities to grow, learn and shine. Working with a great group of young women at my former agency, we took our collaboration up a notch and supported the “Young Women’s Leadership Schools” in NYC through a series of volunteer events and workshops, that has continued to this day. In addition to work-related support, I press everyday for progress via the youngest female trailblazer I know, my daughter, Olivia. At 10, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, without missing a beat, she replies: “I want to be a Supreme Court Justice, but I know I need to be a lawyer first.” That’s progress.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? I’m going to continue to push our more junior female leaders to be more confident. I have found that confidence grows differently person to person, and sometimes one just needs another to voice support and “I’ll press for more women in PR to take on leadership positions” “I’ll push our more junior female leaders to be more confident” praise. One of the critical tools this next generation of women needs to truly change the game is to exude confidence. I know they have it in them.
Cornelia Kunze, President, GWPR, Deutschland
- Who pressed for your progress? I´ve always enjoyed the generous support of my bosses, who were keen to see me progress and contribute to their own objectives. They shared information in abundance and gave me a lot of freedom to take my own decisions and make my own mistakes. I felt in charge and supported, if needed. In addition, I´ve always looked for one or two extra mentors with specific skills and experiences, who helped me to extend my perspective and give me access to a broader network of people.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? I believe, there`s an unwritten inter-generational contract. Those who receive support and mentoring will pass it on and benefit from it. I have pushed for progress of my direct reports, I have always worked with a number of mentees, also outside my own company. This includes regular and formal conversations as much as ad-hoc and need-based short check-ins to help on opportunities and issues. There needs to be a willingness on both sides to make it work and a good, trusted relationship.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? I`ll invest my time into the German chapter of GWPR, helping many more women including future leaders to connect with each other and find useful platforms, formats and opportunities to network and support each other.
Carola Salvato, CEO, Havas Health, Italy; Founder, GWPR, Italy
- Who pressed for your progress? Mostly me! I have always challenged and tested myself since my first steps. It was not just ambition, it was above all desire and need to discover my potential and my attitudes. The different professional environments with their numerous stimuli were a way to train and bring out my qualities. I feel grateful to every manager I worked with, they took my ambitions and tested them. One woman in particular has been the keystone. My family has played a key role as a supporter, rooting for me without pressing and welcoming me on a bad day, because for them, for those who love you, it only matters that you are happy.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? For years, I have focused primarily on the value and potential of every individual. To create value, we must challenge ourselves and go beyond the small ego and the visual limit. Every day, I remind my colleagues of the importance of re-launching oneself and not losing energy and talent in “I’ll help many more women including future leaders to connect with each other” “I’ll encourage talent, without gender limits” complaining. Real progress is finding solutions where there seem to be nothing but limits.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? What makes me happy when the alarm rings is knowing that I will have the opportunity to encourage talent, without gender limits, and that if I know how to be wise enough, I will find a way to support my collaborators in their most important challenges: learning to believe in their potential / to make their passions coexist, to find fulfillment in their job and in their personal life.
Angela Oakes, Co-Founder and Joint President, Global Women in Public Relations
- Who pressed for your progress? My mother, who never had the opportunity to go to university, or have a career. As a frustrated housewife and stay at home mum she wanted a more rewarding life for me, pushed to get me the best education and made me believe I could be financially independent. “I’ll not only talk about progress but will push for progress actively each day” “I’ll stand up against the status quo when it comes to gender balance” Also, years later my agency boss who suggested I take on the MD role when I was 30. My typical female reaction was….‘I’m not sure I can do this.’ He wouldn’t take no for an answer and gave me the confidence to go for it. Three years later I started my own PR agency and never looked back.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? All the young women I employed at my agency over the years – many starting as graduates straight from college. Talented, hard-working and ambitious I’ve watched them grow and develop in their careers to be strong, independent career women in their own right. That has been enormously rewarding. Now, as co-founder of Global Women in PR my goal is to continue to support the next generation of female talent and, most importantly, to increase the number of women in the boardroom.
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? I want to encourage businesses to be much more flexible in their working practices, so women are better able to manage both being a mother and having a career. We all know it’s not easy and women still take on the lion share of childcare. So we need more job shares, more working from home, more flexible hours – these things can and do work, both for women and for businesses. The PR world needs to wake up to a new way of working in the 21st century. We are losing great women mid-career and it needs to change.
Sue Hardwick, Co-Founder and Joint President, Global Women in Public Relations
- Who pressed for your progress? As ever there is more than one person but probably the most important were My mother who persuaded me that a good education was the foundation to doing anything that I set my mind on and encouraged me to aim high! Gerrard Perry – the entrepreneurial founder of a major retailer who believed that the best PR’s at the time were aged 25, graduates and female! He employed me in my first ‘in house’ PR role, taught me how to read a balance sheet and ensured I didn’t just ‘talk the talk’ but had to have a proper understanding of the products and services I was promoting… Frank Cody who told me I could and should start my own business at a time when there was little support for new start up’s – he inspired me to succeed …last, but not least, Jane Atkinson who helped me transition from running a boutique agency to becoming a Director of a leading UK agency with a board position – she believed in me and was and continues to be a fabulous mentor.
- Whose progress have you pressed for and how? I have employed several smart women during my career many of whom have gone on to have very successful careers and have reached key positions– I hope my training and belief in their abilities gave them the confidence to move forward and do great things
- What’s your pledge to #pressforprogress in 2018? To use the networking platform we have created in GWPR to help more women have a real stake in the future development of our industry – with our global reach we can share the best ideas to create an environment fit for today’s working women – from flexible working to decentralised working – together we can make a change that benefits both men and women.
Membership is open to individuals and firms who work in the field of public relations and is also extended to both women and men working in communications, media, marketing and advertising. Join Women in PR North America in our private Facebook and LinkedIn groups to connect with women in your field before and after the conference sessions.