PR News 2016 Diversity in PR Awards: Individual

Winner: Rebecca Ballard, Head of External Communications, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

H+K U.S. benefits from gender diversity in leadership, with women leading most of its company, offices and practices.

Rebecca Ballard may be less visible, but she's equally influential, or more so. Her official title is head of external communications, but she's also a most trusted advisor to the CEOs, and creator/champion of the company’s women's initiatives.

Ballard is a visionary who creates transformational programs, truly motivated by her desire to improve the lives of her colleagues. She is an extraordinary leader who remains humble in all situations. And she is relentlessly kind, without even trying.

Ballard conceived of, branded and managed the March 2015 launch of H+K HER (Helping Executives Rise) to engage the firm’s attention, resources and leadership in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities that women experience in their careers. She is day-to-day director of HER and serves on the HER steering committee.

She led focus groups and helped manage an internal survey that shaped the network's focus. The most desired support platforms were formal mentoring and local gatherings, with career pathing and tailored trainings the most desired offerings. Ballard developed plans and materials to address those four priorities in 2015.

In addition, her passion for gender equity in leadership has taken her work outside H+K walls. Ballard’s work with a reporter on an in-depth look at firms’ policies for working parents led to an article challenging other firms to rise up to meet the benefits provided by H+K.

Through an H+K connection with Sheryl Sandberg, whose book “Lean In” inspired the new H+K policies, Ballard developed a relationship and worked with the Lean In CMO/CCO on a keynote session about Lean In research on women in the workplace and leadership, presented to—and inspiring—an audience of global industry executives.