From the guest editor: It is time for women to take their place at the top

Welcome to the first women issue of PRWeek, a celebration of the astonishing breadth of female talent in the industry, to mark International Women's Day. Our industry is 60 per cent female, but PRWeek has historically struggled to reflect this in its balance of contributors, despite its best efforts.

This proudly female issue is a manifesto for change, and marks the culmination of the PRWeek Mentoring Project, set up last year to tackle the lack of female leaders in comms.

As president of PRCA sector group Women in PR, I was delighted to be asked to guest edit this groundbreaking issue. It has been a truly collaborative experience, and it is fascinating to hear the inspiring views of senior women across the industry, from Unilever’s comms supremo Sue Garrard, to former Home Secretary Jaqcui Smith, now chair of public affairs at Westbourne Communications.

The PR industry is losing talented women at a rate of knots. There are still significant numbers of women entering the industry, but there’s a marked drop-off at senior level. PR is better than many other industries at retaining its female talent, and encouraging flexible working, but it is critical for the future of the industry that there is a strong female pipeline for leadership roles of tomorrow.

We also want to make sure that the PR industry is on track to meet Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent female representation on boards by the end of 2016.  Women make up half our clients’ target audiences and half their potential customer base, so it is critical that the comms industry workforce, at all levels, reflects that.

And while the only voices you’ll find in this issue are women, it is for everyone. As the huge profile of the #HeForShe movement shows, men are increasingly making a stand for gender equality themselves, and have to be part of the solution. Plus, having strong female leadership isn’t purely about equality: it is also extremely good business sense. As John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio remark in their book The Athena Doctrine: "Femininity is the operating system of 21st century prosperity."

This month’s PRWeek is a showcase of the thought leadership and creative talent of some of the most extraordinary women in the industry.

I very much hope that by the time my three sons enter the workplace in 12 to 15 years, a ‘women only’ issue is no longer necessary and International Women’s Day itself has become redundant. Let’s do our bit as an industry to make it happen.

Mary Whenman is president, Women in PR UK and MD, corporate, financial & public affairs, Weber Shandwick

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