THE BLOG
06/22/2016 08:38 am ET Updated Jun 20, 2017

How Can We Address Income Inequity And Gender Disparity At Leadership Levels In PR?

It's hard been to open a newspaper -- or more realistically, click on an article -- this month without seeing the story: Hillary for president! Progress for women! And, it's true. Women continue to shatter glass ceilings all over the place.

But even in new roles, women are facing an undeniable wage gap. Even in a traditionally female-dominated industry like public relations, it seems like pay inequality is rampant.

The numbers agree.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, white women make 79 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Women of color see an even larger wage gap with white males, with African American women earning 60 cents to the dollar and Hispanic women earning only 55 cents.

It's clear that this is an issue, but the question remains: How do we, as women in PR, earn what we deserve?

1. Know your worth.

As a professional, whether male or female, you should know your worth in the workplace. What are your qualifications? What projects have you worked on? How many years of experience do you have?

Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth. Salary and benefit negotiation is a common part of the job-search process. However, this is where some women get tripped-up. Growing up, many females are led to believe that their assertiveness is perceivable as forcefulness or even (and I hate this word), bossiness. Don't be afraid to speak up.

At a recent PRSA-NY event that addressed diversity, Sandra Fathi, president of public relations firm Affect said, "Employees don't have to sit idly by and wait for management to make changes. If you are a woman, or anyone for that matter, in a situation where you feel that you are not being compensated properly for your work -- your talent, your skills, your experience and your job title -- you have to speak up. Do the research, find out what appropriate compensation is for your position, arm yourself with that knowledge and proof points about your performance and contribution to your company and speak with your manager or human resources. Don't shy away from the difficult conversation."

Overall, the industry is bound to see more and more women, especially those of the millennial generation, demand equal pay.

2. Find your inspiration.

It's a lot easier to run on a trail that's been navigated before you.

One of the great advantages women have today are the women who have come before us. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to allow yourself to be inspired by other women who have risen up in the ranks.

Know these women, learn from their journeys and then, create your own.

I've seen many strong, female leaders making names for themselves both in-house and at their agencies: Marian Salzman, CEO, North America, Havas PR; Margi Booth, chairman M Booth; Aedhmar Hynes CEO, Text100; Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn, and Barri Rafferty, senior partner and CEO, North America, Ketchum, to name just a few.

Rafferty's workplace mantra has been "it is better to be trusted than to be liked." Those are words to live by. Her strong leadership has taken the agency forward.

As illustrated by many of these examples, the presence of women in the c-suite can produce better business results for an agency.

3. Be optimistic about change.

The pay gap will shrink because it has to.

The PR industry, like many, is being forced to evolve. Finding and retaining talent has always been one of the largest issues faced by PR firms and closing the gender pay gap is a smart way to remain competitive and embrace change.

While it's important to celebrate major milestones in gender equality, it's also important to acknowledge that there's still progress to be made by highlighting the issues that shape our current reality.

Overall, the issue of unequal pay between genders in general is not a "feminist" issue. Rather, it's a human issue. Just under half the world's current population is female and those of us who aren't females, were birthed by females. Issues that impact women impact almost all of us.

We know the PR industry has made slow progress on equal pay, but there are many in the industry who are working to highlight important issues that we face. Communications Week was started in 2014 to help rise the tide for the PR and media industries overall. Each year, the week focuses on spotting and addressing critical business issues in a collaborative and inclusive way. This year the programming will exploring gender and diversity as part of events centered on the industry's evolution.