Life as a female leader in the PR industry

Following on from International Women’s Day last week, four female leaders from across Australia's PR industry share their experiences of life at the top.

Last week marked International Women’s Day, celebrating the power and value of women globally while recognising what else needs to be done in the fight for gender parity.

While it’s been a progressive year for women with movements like #metoo, more is needed to empower strong female role models.

We asked a number of female leaders what it’s like being a woman in the communications industry in 2018 and their advice for the next generation of female talent.

Lauren Blank, public relations manager, Australia for Tourism New Zealand

“Like anyone else, women have astute insights – we’re explorers, writers, thinkers and travellers who have distinctive and important views of the world.

“Comms is an exciting industry because inspirational women are all around us – leading, innovating and mentoring the next generation. The travel industry is particularly impressive in this area, with Tourism New Zealand’s Australia team alone comprising of 100% females.

“I believe that female role models are more important than ever in terms of making leadership roles more accessible to other women. We need to reach a point where most people will work with a senior woman who’s made it through the proverbial glass ceiling, because then it begins to be normalised.

“Furthermore, female diversity should be a strong business imperative, fostering varied viewpoints, skills and diversity that help move a company forward.”

Sophie Paterson, head of communications, ANZ for Spotify

“I’m lucky to be surrounded by a number of likeminded women (and men) who believe in great work, great music and a progressive approach to gender equality.

“Spotify is known for its inclusive and accepting workplace culture, one that celebrates and strives for diversity and discovery in all its forms.

“You could say it comes with the brand culture, but supporting this is tangible workplace policies, such as our best-in-class parental leave policy, that make it easier to balance work and life commitments.

“For me, it’s always been a conscious choice to work with strong female role models and emerging female talent. I would recommend this approach to anyone else starting out in comms.”

Shannon Davis, marketing manager, Cathay Pacific

“Our industry is proud proof that a strong representation of female leaders helps business succeed.

“We work hard at Cathay Pacific to adopt a doctrine of flexibility that helps all employees, and particularly women, better juggle work with other life commitments.

“For all employees, but particularly women, we know a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t permit space to grow or enable progress.

“That’s why we support and tailor our packages for the individual, while also having company-wide policies such as up to two years’ maternity leave and flexible working arrangements to ensure a strong work–life balance.

“We also have a leadership team in Australia that is over 40% women, ensuring strong female representation at an executive level – allowing us to impact this progress from all sides.”

Jenna Orme is general manager, FleishmanHillard

“PR in Australia comes hand in hand with a great mix of strong female role models, but as an industry we need to work even harder to ensure we continue to foster gender diversity and nurture the best PR talent – both female and male.

“PR is not a nine-to-five job so it’s important to support women in the workplace, whether that’s through strong mentoring and development programs, training, flexible work hours or a competitive maternity leave package. Only then will we continue to recruit and retain the best PR talent, many of whom just so happen to be female.

“We work hard at Fleishman to ensure all employees feel included, supported and inspired. We review our development and mentorship programs regularly to ensure we’re setting our staff up for success, and in doing so hope to foster the next generation of female leaders.”


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