WASHINGTON, DC: Speaking before the National Capital Chapter of the PRSA, Ketchum senior partner Lorraine Thelian said that it is only a matter of time before a woman shatters the glass ceiling and is tapped to lead a global PR firm.
WASHINGTON, DC: Speaking before the National Capital Chapter of the
PRSA, Ketchum senior partner Lorraine Thelian said that it is only a
matter of time before a woman shatters the glass ceiling and is tapped
to lead a global PR firm.
’It’s a matter of sheer numbers,’ she said. ’There are an awful lot of
women who could be promoted to CEO positions.’
Thelian, who rose from being a secretary in an agency that was acquired
by Ketchum to head of its DC office to one of the agency’s six senior
partners, believes today’s top women are attractive leadership
candidates because of the diverse paths - dot-coms, agencies, corporate
posts - they’ve taken to the top. And given that several chiefs of
top-10 firms are said to be preparing their exit strategies, women who
have run mid-sized hi-tech or healthcare firms that were purchased by
large multinationals are clearly set to take the reins.
’They are entrepreneurial, and they are proven leaders,’ said
While she declined to name names, women execs such as Blanc & Otus
co-founder Maureen Blanc, Alexander Ogilvy president and CEO Pam
Alexander, Benjamin Group president Sheri Benjamin and Citigate
Cunningham chairman and CEO Andy Cunningham would appear to fit
Others who have risen through the agency ranks and would seem to be
ideal leadership candidates are Ogilvy president of the Americas Marcia
Silverman, Edelman/US president and COO Pam Talbot and Shandwick
International COO Mary Jeffries. Thelian added that the corporate world
is teeming with agency CEO candidates as well.
While Thelian noted that the PR profession has been slow to elevate its
top women into CEO roles, she said that it is far from the only one
where progress for women execs has been slow - only four Fortune 500
companies boast women CEOs. But despite the economic shakeup, Thelian
views dot-com companies as an ideal proving ground for women execs.
’If a woman takes the senior PR job, she has the opportunity to work
directly with the CEO, a critical experience we have been missing in the
past,’ Thelian explained.
Jack Bergen, president of the Council of PR Firms, concurred with
Thelian’s assessment, noting that hi-tech is ’a new field with new
precedents. You can see women rise to the top and be very successful.’