Talia Beckett Davis, chairwoman of Women in PR Canada, has expanded the group to include its neighbor to the south by founding Women in PR U.S.A.
The American edition is setting up chapters in each state and building its membership before its official launch early next year.
Davis talked with PRWeek about the issues facing women in communications and what the new group can offer its members.
What inspired you to start this group?
Throughout my career, I never really had the opportunity for mentorship or even that helping hand to guide you along in your career and propel you into those leadership positions. I always felt I was really looking for that. I’ve always found so much inspiration being surrounded by women in business. I wanted an opportunity to connect with these women. Now that I have some experience behind me, I wanted to offer that to women who were just getting started in the workplace.
Why start a group specifically for women in PR?
There’s Women in Communications, but there isn’t actually a group for women in PR. We’re the first to do this in Canada and the U.S. There was missing link for the industry. We have the Canadian Public Relations Society and we have Public Relations Society of America in the States. They can't really be biased about the issues women are facing, because their membership is diverse. We can talk about specific issues that women don’t feel comfortable talking about in other environments.
What are the biggest issues?
The biggest issue is still the gender pay gap. We want to have the conversation, but we also want to be different and do a lot of research about some other areas that we can tackle for our industry. Women taking time off for family obligations or taking time off to care for an elderly parent, that’s a big conversation as well. How do employers get them back into the workforce to retain all this female talent? We don't want to be losing all these women.
There’s such a huge trend of women starting their own PR consultancies to manage career, lifestyle, and family obligations. It takes a lot of women out of the workplace. We want to try to make sure women at small businesses have access to these same resources that they might have at a large organization.
What will you offer women who join Women in PR U.S.A.?
The goal is just to connect, motivate, and inspire women in this industry to propel them into leadership positions. We’re also going to be doing a lot of programs online and offline; offline in terms of events and networking and allowing women to connect with each other. We don't just want to have networking events. We want to have education and learning opportunities behind the events we’re putting on. Even though you're networking, you’re still learning something you can take back to the office.
We want to promote learning and keeping on top of PR trends. We’re also doing a lot of stuff online, so we can connect women across North America. We have an online membership platform, where members will have access to online courses and recordings of events happening all across Canada and the U.S.
PR is majority women, but that’s not reflected in leadership positions. How can that change?
There are more women employed in PR than there are as nurses. The question is: why are there so many women in PR that are still not in those senior leadership positions? We also are trying to encourage more men to come to our events and listen to these conversations. Because without men in the room, I don't think change is going to happen that fast.
It’s like what [Canadian Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau keeps saying: It’s 2016, why do we not have gender equality? We need to have women's organizations for as long as we’ll need to have them, and hopefully one day we don’t need to have them at all.