Maureen Lippe, founder-CEO of Lippe Taylor, recalls a series of dinner meetings she initiated with other female leaders in the PR industry.
“What was astonishing to me is that most of these women had competed for years in business, but had never really met each other,” says Lippe, who since founding her PR firm in the early 1990s has worked with some of the top global brands, including Allergan, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. “What we discovered was we really liked each other and knew we had work to do together to make change in our industry. And the quickest way to impact change was to align.”
Lippe, a champion of cause-related marketing throughout her career, decided to act by helping to create The SHEQUALITY Project.
The project, which launched in 2016 and is part of the PR Council, is designed to help women executives rise in the ranks of PR agencies. Ongoing activities include networking dinner series, workshops and events throughout the country. “These issues are of the highest importance,” Lippe says. “It’s time for PR agencies to start working with a new gender equality playbook.”
Losing Female Talent
The group has its work cut out. On average, men who work in PR make $6,072 more a year than women when tenure, job type, education, field of study, location and ethnicity are the same, according to a recent report released by The Holmes Report and Ketchum Global Research & Analytics. The survey is based on 5,580 responses from employees of 51 agencies in North America.
What is more discouraging, women make up about 70 percent of the PR industry, yet are only about 30 percent of the industry’s CEOs, according to the Holmes-Ketchum survey, reiterating a statistic Holmes first reported in 2015. None of the top 10 PR agencies have a women at the helm.
Lippe, a former board member of the PR Council and a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, tells Gould+Partners that PR industry leaders ignore gender equality at their own peril.
“We’re losing a lot of great female talent, particularly VP-level executives who start families and realize it’s just easier and more rewarding to stay home and consult or demand to telecommute,“ she says. “Consequently, it’s very difficult to find the best and the brightest female talent at this level.”
But the industry may be ready to turn over a new leaf.
“I feel like [Edelman President-CEO] Richard Edelman, [W20 Founder-CEO] Jim Weiss, and [Weber Shandwick CEO] Andy Polansky, and other top male leaders in the industry are attuned to this issue and are putting into place new and innovative plans to encourage female leadership at their agencies,” Lippe says.
Lippe also stresses that both women and men need to come up with solutions and put them into place. “It’s very important to get our industry male leadership engaged,” she says. “We can’t be a bunch of women talking to one another.”
Reevaluate Employee Benefits
If they haven’t already started, Lippe says, PR firm owners need to reevaluate their benefits package and family leave and maternity/paternity policies. They also need to be more flexible with how they allot work hours and accept the fact that it’s no longer a 9-to-5 world.
Firms need to invest in fair and balanced Gender Equality Pay, Parental Leave Programs and consider allowing staff to telecommute when appropriate, according to Lippe, who adds that firms also need to carefully listen to the issues facing their female employees and initiate a task force devoted to addressing those issues so they don’t wither on the vine.
Lippe Taylor, for instance, offers competitive salaries, a generous healthcare plan, pension and profit sharing plan, expanded parental leave program and a 401k plan. It has also boosted the level of telecommuting among its executives, which works “quite well” for the firm, Lippe says.
“But, we must continue to investigate what else we should be doing to increase retention and guarantee a happy and rewarded staff,” Lippe adds. “We have to explore all possibilities to accommodate this new workforce, but most important is to listen to our employees every day to clearly understand what changes need to be made.”
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