Barri Rafferty: PR industry has an obligation to reimagine stereotypes

Raising awareness shouldn't just be a topic for International Women's Day, but a focus year-round, says the Ketchum CEO

Barri Rafferty: PR industry has an obligation to reimagine stereotypes

Several years ago in Davos, I was frequently mistaken for someone’s wife. At the time, the percentage of female leaders was lower, as was the focus on gender parity. Luckily, times have changed. Gender equity went from a single discussion in a small room to mainstage plenaries led by the forum’s first panel of seven female co-chairs. The World Economic Forum also convened three sessions on sexual harassment, making it clear HR issues are now C-suite issues.

Our industry has an obligation to reimagine stereotypes and accelerate progress toward gender equality.

Just as our client Procter & Gamble did with #WeSeeEqual, we should all leverage our brand voices to tackle bias.

Educating ourselves about unconscious bias and implementing blind hiring practices are two strategies that have worked well in our company and are easily replicable, but we are continually looking for ways to improve in this area.

Brands must ensure their words and actions are consistent with their values. Leaders set the tone for what is acceptable. As communicators, we have an opportunity to serve as the conscience of our organization.

We cannot let the #MeToo movement decrease mentorship of women by senior leaders. Commit to mentoring women and men equally, help them gain equal sponsorship, and create a more equitable world in business and society.

As we continue to make positive strides toward gender equality, communicators can play a role in driving change in other industries, as well. Raising awareness shouldn’t just be a topic for International Women’s Day, but a focus year-round.

Perhaps Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it best: "Hiring, promoting, and retaining more women is not just the right thing or the nice thing to do, but the smart thing to do."

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