girl power on IWD
Today is International Women's Day. 2017 was a wild year, filled with triumphs and obstacles for women around the world. There were days we felt victorious and empowered, and days where the news headlines made us sick. This year also included major transitions for me personally, as I went from student to new pro and learned more about women in the industry and the various challenges we face on the path to “having it all" - whatever that means to each of us.
Going into the workforce, I didn’t even consider the implications of being a woman in the industry. I genuinely thought everything would pretty much be equal out here in the real world. (A bit naive!) Studying in a public relations program comprised of mostly women, there was no doubt in my mind that the opportunities available to me and my classmates were endless if we were willing to put in the work. Growing up, my family encouraged me and my sister to learn, achieve and try new things in the same way they did my brother. Somewhere throughout this year, though, the curtain went away. I saw more men in leadership than women; heard more stories of friends being the sole woman in meetings; realized that ‘leaning in’ can only do so much without additional advocates and a working environment that strives for inclusion.
By the numbers, only 24 companies on the Fortune 500 have female CEOs (although one of them is a fellow University of Alabama alumna -- so, roll tide to that). The average woman in advertising and public relations makes $21,000 less annually than men, despite the workforce consisting of 65.2 percent women, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recent “Women Can’t Win” report. (If that report title says anything…) Throw in the #MeToo movement and the increasing conversations around consent and sexual harassment, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and tune out.
But this year, IWD and Women’s History Month mean more. Despite the unsettling headlines and the pay gap, women are finding their voices and making change. They’re sharing their #MeToo stories.Hollywood has recognized that Time’s Up. Women are negotiating stronger salaries. They’re championing their peers and those below them - both men and women - to recognize gender equality and more actively recognize and resolve issues in the workplace.
More employers are launching gender equality goals; Accenture, for example, has a public goal of achieving a gender-equal workforce by 2025. More employers are providing female mentorship and professional development opportunities. Women now lead some of America’s iconic morning shows. In our industry, Linda Rutherford and Tina McCorkindale are leading the Institute for Public Relations, and Jane Dvorak recently transitioned off of her term as PRSA Chair. Since my firm has announced its merger, it is now the world’s third-largest PR firm in the world - and is being led by a woman. It seems to me that now is as good a time as any to continue to speak up, build relationships and seek progress.
Organizations around the world are coming together on International Women’s Day to recognize progress, empower women and highlight the next step in our journey to gender parity. It means more research, so that data can continue to support programs. It means more paid time off so parents can have the necessary time for parenting and working.. It means earnestly striving to have it "all."
In public relations we learn about Betsy Plank, Muriel Fox, Barbara Hunter, and several other women who blazed the trail for us; who lived through and learned to thrive in the ‘Mad Men’ era. They knew they were capable and deserving of the ‘big jobs,’ and they fought for them. They mentored women below them. They made it possible.
Outside of the office, women are pulling each other up. Female friendships continue to be vital. I love seeing celebrities, bloggers and people I follow on social media (and also my real life friends) show support for people they could just have easily been critical of or competing against - like that quote from Jaclyn Johnson: “behind every great woman, are great women.” #trueeeeee
So today, on International Women’s Day in 2018, we are using our voices. We are lifting each other up. We are empowering one another rather than competing. I’m so excited to be a young pro and young woman at a time like this - it’s on us to continue to build the future and follow the footsteps of women before us. It's on us to ask for more (because the worst thing that can happen is they can say 'no'... it's the asking that counts.)
I’m so thankful for the women in my life who push me to think bigger and work harder… and share their best makeup/fashion tips in the progress. (It’s called balance.) Happy IWD to all my ladies! Cheers to another year of big things.