Trying to find the top 50 most powerful women in PR has proved a fun exercise. As with all such lists, it was, of course, difficult, even harrowing.
Trying to find the top 50 most powerful women in PR has proved a
fun exercise. As with all such lists, it was, of course, difficult, even
But as the judges ploughed through more than 250 nominations from senior
ranking PR women all over the country, some incredible personalities and
their stories emerged. You can be sure that even if some didn’t quite
make the top 50, they will not be forgotten.
This is more than just a list of personalities, however. It is a
progress report on women and the role they play in the communications
The progress of women in PR is rather like the progress of PR itself:
both have come a long way; both still have far to go. As our feature
points out (see p16), many senior positions are now held by women. At
corporations, many top communications posts are now filled by women,
including Procter & Gamble, GE Capital, Genetech, Marriott Hotels,
Gatorade, Starbucks and Ameritech. You’ll find women at the top of
several mid-size agencies.
And at large agencies, women are controlling budgets of up to dollars 30
million as general managers, regional heads or practice heads.
But as our feature also makes plain, the presence of women on executive
boards is not even close to being representative. Even firms with a
reputation as being ’enlightened’ - agencies like Ketchum, Porter
Novelli and Fleishman-Hillard - still have a way to go. And why is it
that the most-common senior executive board position held at major
agencies is one for human resources?
It’s disappointing that at less than a handful of top agencies, the
so-called ’O’ class - CEOs, CFOs, COOs - are women.
Also notable in our report is the extraordinary dominance of hi-tech as
a senior management opportunity for top women. Women have become so
high-profile in the sector, that it would have been possible to compile
a list of the top 50 most important women in hi-tech PR without having
to hunt for names. Conversely, we were obliged to discount some very
well-known female hi-tech ’names’ partly for reasons of balance.
But just as hi-tech has become a welcome opportunity to highlight the
business skills of women, so one must bemoan the apparent lack of
opportunity for progress in sectors like healthcare, crisis
communications and investor relations.
In healthcare in particular, one has to wonder why women have not been
able to establish a similar record as they have in hi-tech. While
healthcare practices at several major agencies are run by women, only a
few have chosen to establish their own agencies. That is partly in the
nature of the corporate environment in which healthcare often operates;
but for every Pfizer or Merck, there are 50 smaller healthcare accounts
to be won, and biotech is not dissimilar to hi-tech as a start-up
opportunity - for client and agency alike.
As one judge said while reviewing the numerous entries for the winners:
’The glass ceiling is like an exotic greenhouse, with many panes of
glass.’ The hope must be that like tomboys, women will continue to smash