Walk into any gathering of communications professionals and the first thing you'll notice is the large percentage of women—many of them brilliant, accomplished and primed for leadership in corporate America.
Then consider sobering reality: Women hold 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.8% of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. Within PR itself, at the agency and in-house level, men tend to occupy the corner office.
If there was one dominant theme shared by the honorees at last month's Matrix Awards luncheon presented by New York Women in Communications, it is that meaningful social change moves at a glacier's pace, and only happens through deliberate actions taken by people who see beyond their own immediate self-interest and create a community with shared goals.
Merely deserving or earning corporate leadership and pay equity won't get women there in large numbers. It has to be taken through shared actions. Successful women in communications can further their own cause by connecting with other women like themselves to share ideas and inspiration.
Liz Kaplow, president of New York Women in Communications, and president and CEO of PR agency Kaplow, has focused much of her energy this past year on the advancement of women at all stages of their careers in communications. "We need to break out of our day to day and connect with others to help us navigate what that next step in our career is going to be," Kaplow says. "Especially with women in mid-career who are facing obstacles. They need confidence—they need to be mentored. Women in top leadership roles are willing to be mentors, but we need to get women in mid-career to tell their stories, too."
Mentoring takes time, but it doesn't have to spring from an established mentoring program in a company or from one developed by a professional organization. Rather, it should be a state of mind, and the heart of it, according to Kaplow, is storytelling and conversation.
"In terms of changing the cultural Zeitgeist we have to start mentoring each other," she says. "We really have to keep talking about it. We’re communicators. Whether it’s Joanna Coles' Cosmo luncheon of the 100 most powerful women or the Matrix Awards, in order to make change there has to be a conversation. And we have to get corporate America behind it so they see it’s a win-win and that they see that they don’t want to lose that incredible talent."
And if you question your own ability to be a mentor, all you need to do is follow these two simple mentoring guidelines, laid out by Kaplow:
1. Share information easily.
2. Take time to listen and ask questions.
That's all there is to it. Now get out there and be a mentor.
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI