Karen Kahn, Hall of Femme 2018


Karen Kahn, Hall of Femme 2018

What would you do if not in PR?
If I wasn’t in communications, I would be an architect or designer. I love amazing design and décor.

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.
In December, my daughter Sophia was accepted to New York University. It was her first choice and she had applied early decision. I had just landed at San Francisco International Airport from yet another long business trip.

When I was on the road, I had been sleeping with my phone, waiting to hear her news. I got a text when the plane touched down and then listened to her voicemail. She was accepted. It felt like I won the lottery to know that her dream came true.

How long ago was the last time you took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
A few weeks ago, when I binge watched Big Little Lies. I watched TV for eight hours straight and loved it.  

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
What frustrates me is complacency and lack of business acumen. I’m amazed by comms people – at every level – who do not see themselves as business people. We are business people first, artisans second.

Creative ideas without strategic insight perpetuate the worst in our profession and diminish our credibility. We must raise the bar in the way we think and in every facet of what we communicate – from business strategy to financials to products and everything in between. It is a frustration, but it is also an opportunity to elevate what we do and our reputation for delivering stakeholder value.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
I see the industry beginning to shine on diversity and inclusion. The first step in solving any problem is to know there is a problem. Then you must act with integrity and authenticity to drive systemic change. I see this at HP and am lucky to be part of it. And I see it within the larger agency community.The conversations are hard and the solutions can be harder. But important work is never easy.

Seeing diversity and inclusion come out from the shadows and become a conversation we are all having to drive stronger business impact is amazing. I wake up every day and feel inspired that my job offers me the chance to make a social impact with my team.   

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will... continue to coach every woman I know on how to negotiate for her worth and not be afraid to talk about money. 

Words to live by?
"If you don’t have dreams, you have nightmares," is a quote I have always loved. We must push ourselves and our teams to always be curious, to always learn, and to endeavor to disrupt the ordinary. 

Favorite drink?
I’m so boring: I love Diet Coke.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self? 
I’m very hard on myself. Although I have high standards for those around me, they dwarf compared to the standards I set for myself. I would probably be kinder to my young self and reinforce that getting from point A to point B can be something different than a bold straight line.  

Who are the three people, living or dead, you would like to host at a dinner party and why?
There are people who I deeply admire and would love to meet are Mahatma Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Picasso. But for this dinner party, I would say both of my grandfathers, who died before I was born.

They were immigrants with little education who worked their whole lives for their families. They died young and had no idea of their legacy. They are Harry Hirsch and Max Novick. The third is my grandmother, Doris Berliner, who died at the age of 102. She had an amazing run, but I still miss her.

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