Hold the wheatgrass smoothies: International Women's Day is a reminder that PR is far from perfect

I am a feminist. How did this happen? I could drop the usual clichés about being the father of two young girls and living in a house full of women.

Protesters take to the streets in Washington as part of the global women's march in January (©ResistFromDay1, via Flickr)
Protesters take to the streets in Washington as part of the global women's march in January (©ResistFromDay1, via Flickr)

Which is true; even our new cat is female. To be fair though, after the vet does her business, ‘Milton’s’ gender identity will be vague.

Perhaps the bigger question is why isn’t everyone a feminist?

Feminism, despite what the alt right will have you believe, is the belief that men and women should be treated equally, in every aspect of life.

On International Women’s Day, of all days, who can’t get behind that?

Read next: International Women's Day – PRWeek spotlights 14 female UK comms leaders

I’ve always been a passionate advocate for agency life as it’s rooted in meritocracy.

I’ve worked at publically traded companies so there’s been no eponymous owner to play tennis with.
Your last name isn’t important. People move up based solely on merit. So all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds? Not quite.

The PR industry is dominated by women and yet there are too few at the top.

For the first half of my career, all my managers were women. Brilliant, clever, witty, inspirational women.

Now, my bosses are men. Equally brilliant, but men. I share my job with two other men.

Do people think I’m part of the problem? That thought fills me with dread.

The real problem is, at many agencies the path to the top has been uneven.

Also see: Eight reasons why there's a gender pay gap in PR (and seven ways to reduce it)

One of the biggest issues is paternity leave. When my daughter was born seven years ago, I assumed my wife - who owns her own business - would take off at least six months. I’m ashamed to look back on that conversation now.

Thankfully, legislation in many countries has caught up and enlightened agencies are creating cultures where men are encouraged to share the experience of parental leave.

I interviewed a guy in Sweden recently. He told me he could start the job in three months but then would be taking a year’s paternity leave, making his start date June 2018.

Lean in to that.

Talking to my peers that run agencies, succession plans are dominated by women.

At the place I work, our five largest offices are run by women, along with the majority of our biggest accounts. The future looks very female.

So that’s it. Job done. Wheatgrass smoothies for everyone! Aren’t we so progressive?

Not quite. We still have a gender pay gap that is indefensible. Agency bosses can reduce it within two pay cycles whilst focusing on the long-term causes.

A clear goal should be for agencies to be ethnically and culturally representative of the countries and communities in which they are based, at all management levels.

How else can you understand the hopes, fears and dreams of an entire nation?

Matt Neale is CEO of Golin

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