Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and a call for action to continue pushing for equality. This year, the theme for the official International Women’s Day is to #PressforProgress. We love that rather than looking back and celebrating the progress that some women have made, however momentous or incremental, we are instead looking forwards and pushing onward, together, for even more progress for all. This year, in honor of International Women’s Day, Full Court Press decided to put our heads together and brainstorm some of the advice we would give young women (or anyone!) looking to enter the workplace— be it in PR and communications or consulting. This is one small way of pressing for progress— to provide women with the tools and empowerment to push themselves, and to encourage the workplace, and society, to be a better, more just place for all.
My advice for individuals and organizations is not to settle for parity. Like many feminists, I’m truly pushing for equality of representation and opportunity. But I don’t think this means that women necessarily need to settle for 50% visibility. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was famously asked “When will there be enough women on the court?” and her answer, which really resonated with me, is “when there are nine.” If that panel, boardroom, or executive board was made up of 75% men, most people wouldn’t bat an eye. So if the conference rooms, press conferences, networking events, or ballots are filled with that many women, I say, the more the merrier. When our institutions, governments, and businesses are diverse, they perform better. Women shouldn’t shy away from being the only woman in the room, but nor should they shy away from being the fiftieth. There’s not a set quota for how many women can be powerful, successful leaders: let’s make sure there’s room for all of us.
If I could give one piece of advice to young women entering the communications/PR field it would be to ask as many questions as possible. When I was first starting out in my career, I never asked questions to my bosses or my clients out of a fear that someone would think I wasn’t capable or that I didn’t belong in my job. It feels funny to say that now, as asking questions is an intrinsic part of FCP’s successful collaborations with our clients. But, early on, it really did terrify me. As a result, I missed out on a lot of great learning opportunities and also perhaps appeared a little aloof at times, or less engaged than I could have been. The bottom line is, if you have something on your mind, say it. Chances are, someone else in the room has the same question. Your question may provide a fresh way of thinking that helps your client approach a problem in an innovative way.
Try Everything and Learn. I felt early on in my career that specialization was critical. What I found in actuality was exactly the opposite. I learned so much by bouncing from politics to marketing to even fundraising. To create those opportunities, I’d suggest looking for ways to be “undeniable.” Make yourself an asset even before you walk into the first conversation. Leverage your learnings from one gig to improve yourself for another. Take social media and content creation skills learned on a political campaign and apply them to a start-up. Take fundraising experience gained working for a community organization and apply them to sales or client acquisition. In doing so, you can bring something unique to the table as you seek an opportunity or a leap in your career trajectory.