As a field, Public relations is approximately 70% female. You’d think such a female-dominated industry would be beyond the sexism so rampant in other industries; however, we witnessed first-hand this morning that that’s just not reality.
— Pete Codella, APR (@codella) October 24, 2016
To which I responded with:
— Heather Whaling (@prtini) October 24, 2016
This sparked a dialogue, as well as a bunch of likes and retweets – all of which got me thinking about the roots of the problem. Only 30% of agency leaders are female. Something is happening that’s preventing women from proportionally rising to the top levels of the industry – and it has nothing to do with the lack of qualified women. Instead, this tweet offers a stark reminder that sexism – implicit and explicit – is alive and well in public relations.
So, PRSA – as the industry’s largest professional association – I’m calling on you to take an active role in reducing sexism, educating members about implicit and explicit bias, and providing even more opportunities to propel women into leadership positions. This means being proactive, and directly addressing these issues by providing tools to professionals through your organization.
An Opportunity to Learn and Improve
Here’s what I propose: A “Leadership for Women” track at next year’s PRSA International Conference to tackle these very issues. There are plenty of experts, case studies, research and best practices that we can share with members – women and men – to start to curtail this issue. For example, sessions can focus on:
- Negotiating salary and benefits
- Rewriting workplace policies to better reflect the realities of today’s workforce and family dynamics
- The importance of workplace flexibility to encourage health and wellness within your organization
- Starting a sponsorship/mentorship program
- Men Who Get It – a panel discussion featuring men who actively work to encourage and support women to grow in their careers
- Gender Norms: How you may be unknowingly reinforcing gender stereotypes … and what to do about it.
- Using your voice to advocate for women in the workplace
- Understanding and combatting implicit bias
… the list could go on and on.
I recognize it’s hard to add an additional programming track. If you’re open to the idea, I will personally volunteer to serve as “track captain” – curating, vetting and organizing content to ensure the segment delivers a valuable, meaningful, action-oriented experience for all attendees (men and women alike. After all, this isn’t just a “women’s issue.”) Ready to get started? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m all in, if you are!