Birth of a new body

This week the CIPR introduces a new package of measures helping PR women navigate maternity leave. Board member and chair of the Professional Practices Committe Sarah Hall explains why this is so important.

Birth of a new body

Being a 10k strong member body that is run in the main by volunteers can be challenging. Our membership is both disparate and dispersed so one size most certainly does not fit all in terms of approach. 

It’s for this reason that deciding how best to represent its members is something the CIPR has at times struggled with in the past. In 2014 however, the organisation has rediscovered its purpose and we are clear in our goals and confident in our delivery.

From conception to birth

The launch of our new maternity package is a case in point.

From 1st September, we have introduced a number of measures to help women in public relations successfully navigate the challenges of maternity leave and return to work confidently. Why? Because our annual State of the Profession survey shows that the needs of one of our key stakeholder groups are not being served. 

While we are not yet an exemplar for other industries - forging the way in terms of career support, leadership and parity of pay – make no mistake, the work we are delivering marks our intent to become just that. And that is why organisations like the Women’s Business Council and individuals such as Nicky Morgan, Minister for Women and Equalities, are publicly lending us their support.

Stick a dummy in it

Of course there will always be those who don’t see this work on gender and diversity as a priority. In fact, the reams and reams of data available pretty much scream that it is.

We are not ignoring fathers, just dealing with the facts laid out in black and white in front of us.

Mismanagement of maternity leave and lack of support have long been identified as barriers to women’s career progression.  If you consider that women comprise 67.9% of the CIPR’s membership, to ignore the results of the State of the Profession survey would be not only short-sighted but disingenuous.

We have a responsibility to recognise the growth that women drive within the economy and encourage organisations to embrace gender balance and diversity. It is proven that if they do, greater success is much more likely to follow. 

Nature versus nurture

So this is why we have chosen to help our female leaders – and their employers – navigate the challenges that come when practitioners take time out to have children. The forthcoming introduction of shared parental leave from December 2014 is to be welcomed and will keep the issue front of mind. 

We need to change the nature of the way that most organisations approach maternity leave and help them find a way to nurture their talent.

Only then will we hold onto highly skilled women at senior levels and stop losing them from the industry at a rate that, let’s face it, is wholly inexcusable and perfectly avoidable too.


Find more articles about balancing PR work with motherhood on the PRWeek Mentoring Project homepage.


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