Beehive SVP Ayme Zemke at PR Council's SHEquality event

I had the opportunity last week to talk with a number of women (and a few courageous men) about the state of women’s leadership in our industry. The discussion was part of PR Council’s nationwide SHEquality initiative, which is focused on helping women to rise in the executive ranks of PR.

It was an inspiring event filled with ideas, insights and a clear desire to do more. And it was a wonderful reminder of what a strong, talented community of women leaders we have here in the Twin Cities PR market – and how we can rise together.

Here are a few of my key takeaways from the event:

We need to create a more viable path to leadership for women.

  • A survey of local PR professionals showed that many women are opting out of agency leadership roles because they believe it means choosing work over life.
  • It’s not just our industry. A recent NYT article shows how a winner-takes-all business climate of long, inflexible hours have essentially canceled the effect of women’s educational gains.
  • And yet, the data clearly shows that businesses with women leaders and diverse employee populations are more likely to outperform their competition.
  • Women tell us we can create more viable paths to leadership through mentoring, greater flexibility and inclusive opportunities.

The Twin Cities PR community has an uncommonly high number of women leaders.

  • We have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to mentor and coach the next generation of women leaders.
  • Harvard Business Review research found that when women support each other at work, they are more likely to rise into executive leader roles.
  • Organizations must be willing to change and meet the rising expectations of employees. That includes creating and nurturing flexible, supportive and growth-minded workplace cultures.

Empowering women to rise together starts with self-awareness.

  • Recognizing the potential of our personal impact starts with clarity of personal values and deepening of EQ skills – engaging with both our heads and hearts.
  • When each of us better understands and plays to our strengths, we’re in a great position to build together.
  • We need to become more confident about our ability to impact change. When we speak up and raise our hands, we can change our workplaces for the better.
  • If we each commit to growing as individuals and professionals and empowering other women, positive change will happen.

There is much work to be done, but I’ve never felt more optimistic or inspired about what’s possible. A huge thanks to all the attendees who showed up ready to step into this dialogue. Thanks also to PR Council for sponsoring the event, to Padilla for hosting and to the other women who led roundtable discussions: Carol Anderson, Julie Batliner, Lynn Casey, Sara Gavin and Kathy Tunheim.

Onward. Together!