12 Powerful Ways Women In PR And Marketing Can Claim Their Space In Leadership
This article was originally shown in Forbes. Christine contributed as a member of the Agency Leaders Council. Kami Watson Huyse wrote the article. She, too, is a member of the Council.
Kami is the CEO of Zoetica, a social media agency that helps brands create community, increase authority and make an impact.
PR and marketing add to a growing number of industries that are dominated by women, yet leadership roles are still largely held by men. So, what can be done? As in any other profession, women can work on skills that help them become and create great leaders: skills like decision-making and problem-solving and the ability to create a business case for their initiatives.
However, having been a leader in PR and marketing for over 20 years, I can attest to community being a critical ingredient to success for women looking to advance their careers. Men have long dominated most professions, and so they’ve had a leg up on building a succession of mentors, advocates and supporters—they’ve been knowledge-sharing and helping each other out for generations.
It’s equally important for women to find a sponsor or mentor who is looking out for our best interests. And when we do rise through the ranks, we need to support other women.
To follow suit, I turned to the members of Forbes Agency Council Women Executives, a community I help to lead, to share their lessons on how to advance their career in a field that, like so many others, lacks representation on the executive level.
1. Work where you are valued.
If the staff is 80% women, the leadership team should reflect that. The wage and power gap in marketing continues to be an issue. Know your value, ask about pay equity at any potential employer, and don’t apologize for being a rock star. – Heather Kelly, Next PR
2. Be knowledgeable in multiple disciplines.
Make sure you understand numbers: balance sheets, sales forecasts, analytics and statistics. Work in various roles within companies that are both right-brain and left-brain dominated. The best marketing and PR leaders I’ve come across have experience in another discipline. A marketer who understands operations is invaluable. – Christine Slocumb, Clarity Quest Marketing
3. Be transparent about salary.
Making the discussion around compensation taboo is a tool of the patriarchy to keep women from realizing they are earning less for doing the same work. If your co-workers are open to it, be transparent about what you all make. When you know what others make, you can lean into negotiations with confidence—which historically, women have not done. – Kristen Brown, Hoot Design Company
4. Surround yourself with supportive women.
Confidence is key and be sure to surround yourself with other women who support each other. These are great times for women in PR and marketing. Women have the opportunity to be the driving force and take leadership positions. Something that I admire about the women I choose to work with in our industry is how we support one another and continue evolving to fill more of those C-Suite positions. – Leigh-Anne Anderson, Anderson-PR
5. Speak up for yourself.
Women have to champion themselves and each other. Speaking up, ensuring your opinion and expertise is heard, and standing up for yourself is a necessity to rise to leadership positions. One of the reasons why VP Kamala Harris’s “I’m speaking” hit so hard is because it’s not in our everyday lives that we see a woman so confidently and effectively stand up for herself and to her opposition. – Erin Fabio, GRIT Studio
6. Normalize equality every chance you get.
This disparity isn’t because women aren’t doing enough or doing something wrong. Bias toward male leadership runs deep and (like every disparity) it’s something everyone has to recognize and work to change. I try to normalize equality in dealing with personal issues and provide emotional safety around these challenges in our office. It has to be entirely safe to speak up and support others. – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR & Marketing
7. Steer clear of agencies with no female c-suite representation.
Reaching the executive ranks is great, but reaching back to pull other women up is critical. So, when you’re in the position to do so, mentor a younger professional. And lastly, play big! Women tend to do more because we think it will show that we’re deserving. The executive ranks are for those who play big. Delegate tasks so you can focus on larger initiatives. – Beth Newton, alpha | BRAVO
8. Take the time to really learn the business that you’re in.
Understand the challenges and determine how marketing and PR can have a measurable impact. Use data to back up your recommendations, build consensus around your ideas, and ask for support to implement them. Taking initiative and bringing well-thought-out ideas to the table puts you on the radar for leadership opportunities. – Renee Yeager, Yeager Marketing
9. Take initiative.
Keep taking things on if you’re able to or until someone tells you to stop. That’s not about doing free work, but rather, if you see something that needs to be done, do it. This approach enabled me to learn a lot and put me on senior leadership’s radar. Now that I’m a business owner, I’m very aware of when team members do this. It tells me that they’re ready to do more and have a larger impact on the organization. – Katy Thorbahn, Shiny
10. Challenge yourself to apply what you know.
If you’ve been in the field watching your senior-level execs run accounts, we as woman and aspiring entrepreneurs, watch, listen, learn and know what works and what does not, and have a solution in our own minds as to how much better something could be “if…” Once you’ve exceeded experience and you have that drive to do more and do better, it’s time to take that chance and build something greater. – Jessica Kopach, The JKO Agency
11. Envision yourself as a leader.
No one can become a leader without seeing oneself as one. It’s a matter of commitment. The main idea of any leadership is to set and achieve preset goals with no distractions. Leadership is about consistency, resilience, values and finding resolutions for challenges. It’s not about differences. It’s about seeing yourself as a leader and unapologetically reaching this goal. – Oksana Matviichuk, OM Strategic Forecasting
12. Show up.
To stand out in a male-dominated pool of leadership, you have to show up. There is no such thing as meeting expectations, you can either miss the mark or exceed them. Being there for your people by always showing up in not just the big, but the little moments as well make all the difference in exceeding expectations. – Kimberly Jones, Butler/Till