EDITORIAL: Still smashing at the glass ceiling

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 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

harrowing.



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

world.



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

those windows.



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