The title of this event at the PRCA Creative Group event intrigued me. Are women held back in PR? After all, I work in a PR agency where our MD is a woman, our Head of PR is a woman. It's a predominantly female organisation, and a quick straw poll in the office before I left revealed that none of us feels held back.
It turns out we’re unusual. Harriet Minter, journalist and a speaker on women’s rights, kicked off the session with a striking fact: women fill 70% of the entry-level positions in PR, but only 12% of the creative director positions. Lotte Jones, Creative Director at Teneo Blue Rubicon, suggested that PR is a relatively new industry, therefore there are not many women role-models yet. She also added that explicitly in the creative sector, women are not encouraged to take risks with their ideas as much as men. And in the end, success comes from taking risks.
Mentoring and peer coaching are good ideas to bring more women in the creative industry explained Rebecca Grant, UK Managing Director at Cohn & Wolfe, one of WPP’s best-performing agencies. She advised the audience to hire on potential, not on experience. In her view, women are less likely to push themselves and they only take a job if they “tick all boxes". Kat Thomas, founder & Global Executive Creative Director of One Green Bean, recommended women to stop calculating risks, but actually, take them: “What’s the worst that can happen?”.
It was a wide-ranging debate that covered a host of questions such as: Is it simply that PR is a relatively new industry? Do we just wait for women to make their way through their careers and it will all even out in time? Or do women need to be encouraged to take more risks? Do companies need to encourage women to apply for jobs that they might worry they’re under-qualified for? Would mentoring and peer coaching help? Do women need to rethink their perceptions of ambition, and stop being afraid to ask for promotions and pay rises?
The panel agreed that women should not “act like men” to fit in, but they should be aware of the environment and stay true to themselves. Rebecca Grant finished the discussion by saying that it is more important to foster a creative culture within the company than having ‘creative’ in the titles.
It was a fascinating and inspiring debate. My favourite piece of advice from the night was to “Have fun and just add creativity to everything you do.” It’s an approach I try to adopt in my life and that I see happening every day in my work at Red Setter.
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