Marilyn Laurie: How She Emerged from Humble Roots to a Woman in Charge

women around business table

Marilyn Laurie

[Editor’s Note: Marilyn Laurie (1939-2013) was a PR pro who worked on the first Earth Day in New York City. This helped her land a position as an environmentalist at AT&T. She switched to PR, moved up the ranks, eventually becoming the company’s first woman CCO. She also was the first female to join AT&T’s executive committee. Shelley Spector, founder of Museum of PR, interviewed Dick Martin, who succeeded Marilyn at AT&T. He is the author of “Marilyn: A Woman in Charge” (PR Museum Press, August 2020.)]

Shelley Spector, Founder, Museum of PR

Shelley Spector: What lessons can we glean about women and leadership from Marilyn Laurie?

Dick Martin: All I can do is repeat some of the lessons Marilyn suggested.

The first is triple-barreled and came to her in her final days, as a summation of her path to the top of her field: ‘Have the ambition to influence the future, the courage to stand up for your ideas, and the stamina to make yourself heard.’

Perhaps knowing many people don’t think of [these] as feminine characteristics, she suggested, ‘maintain defiant belief in new possibilities.’ In other words, don’t lean in for the sake of getting promoted. Lean in for the sake of getting something meaningful done.


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