Trailblazers talk back and make their own way amid adversity

Three influential young execs discuss finding an unconventional path at PRDecoded.

(clockwise from top left) Geneve Lau, Alexis Wierenga, Nysah Warren, and Carlos Mark Vera
(clockwise from top left) Geneve Lau, Alexis Wierenga, Nysah Warren, and Carlos Mark Vera

Three young PR professionals who are paving their way through the industry were the featured speakers on the PRDecoded panel Trailblazers Talk Back. They urged their young peers to stand up when they see something wrong at their organizations and think of other ways to make a difference.

Nysah Warren, account executive at Taylor and one of the driving forces behind Hold the PRess, noted that she received some negative feedback after the group asked top agencies to disclose their workforce diversity data. However, she and Hold the PRess’ other cofounders have persevered, putting in extra hours on the initiative that they launched after witnessing what they believed to be half-hearted diversity initiatives by organizations after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“What we wanted to do was create a setting point that we could say, ‘Here’s where we are and here’s where we want to be in a year or two years or three years,’” she said.

Geneve Lau, executive director and partner at Empath Worldwide, cofounded the pro bono firm after noting talented young PR students and recent graduates were unable to land jobs this spring and summer.

“There were a lot of internships that just didn’t happen,” she recalled. “There was so much young talent in the industry and people who had skills to give and nowhere to apply these skills. Empath Worldwide was created as a way to bridge this gap and bring these two needs together.”

Carlos Mark Vera, cofounder and executive director of Pay Our Interns, noted that it is not enough for interns or young professionals to advocate for themselves. They also need to build relationships and make allies at companies and professional organizations who will advocate for them.

“Some of our biggest wins have been working with people inside of an organization,” he said. “Advocacy isn’t just for us. It has to be done among everyone.”

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