The value of role models

Being mentored has given me the confidence to succeed, says Katherine Wright

What do women want? That’s a pretty big question, but it’s what it all boils down to for me!

I feel very lucky to work in the industry I love and to have two beautiful little girls and a husband who shares the childcare with me. Can we have it all? I think we can. Do we need some help along the way? I think we do - and we need to seek it out.

Networking with other high fliers who are also juggling lots of balls and learning from each other is the way to go, based on my experience from the PR Week Mentoring Project to date. I’m benefitting from it hugely and would recommend it to anyone who wants to succeed at both a personal and professional level. I think that’s the true measure of success.

PR has been having a healthy debate during the last year about why there aren’t more women in the top jobs. I think a good place to start is by asking ourselves what do we want? I firmly believe that having a career plan that leads to the top can still be achieved whilst juggling family commitments too, but I’d be kidding to say it doesn’t become more difficult. We may be less able or less willing to make some of the compromises we made before children came along. It’s harder to outshine (or shine as brightly as) equally talented colleagues when you are up all night with a crying baby and want to get back home for bedtime. 

It might be harder, but it is do-able if ability is based on outcomes. I don’t think we want special treatment. At various points in our lives we all have competing interests that may require us to compromise on something, it’s all relative and it’s about life choices. What I believe most women want is a fair shot at the top jobs if our performance merits it, with no doubts about our ability to deliver because we work flexible hours and have another priority alongside our career.

PR is full of talent so the margins for success are tight. I applaud the CIPR for the initiative it’s recently launched to support women returning to work after maternity leave. I think losing some of your natural confidence at a key stage in your career after maternity leave is a factor in there being less women in the top jobs, and part of the answer to this is what the PR Week Mentoring Project is all about. Seeing other women achieving both personal and professional success breaks down barriers: both real ones and self-imposed ones.

A question I had when setting out on the mentoring project was whether women that make it to the top in PR are people we can all relate to. I'm delighted to be mentored by Molly Aldridge. Molly has risen to the top in PR by not being daunted by a challenge and I really admire the fact she has a three year old and a new baby, yet she still heads up a global PR agency at M&C Saatchi. My kids are a similar age, so I take a great deal of encouragement from that.

Thanks PR Week and thanks Molly and my fellow mentees. Now off to juggle some balls!

Katherine Wright MCIPR is Head of Communications and Engagement at CWP NHS Foundation Trust, a leading provider of mental health and community health services in the North West.