This month we celebrate women in our industry.
International Women’s Day was March 8th and this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge was all about celebrating women’s achievements in a continuing effort to take action for equality.
To understand where we want to go, we must first know where we have been. And the history of our business is interesting. People seem to like the idea of working in advertising and PR, just based on the fact that many television shows and movies have been set there: Bewitched, What Women Want, Mad Men and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days all feature the world that we are living in. But those are characters… and this Women’s History Month we wanted to dive into real stories of women who have both blazed a trail and who have helped light the path for our collective future.
Here are a few of the top women in our own industry — those that we can learn from, look up to and find inspiration from — each one brought to you by one of our own fierce female leaders here at Chernoff Newman.
From Amanda DeWeese, VP, Director of Public Relations
Known as the “First Lady of Public Relations,” Betsy Plank (1924-2010), achieved multiple firsts in the industry including the first female to head the Public Relations Society of America in 1973. She served as Executive Vice President of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. She went on to be the first woman to head a division of Illinois Bell and has been recognized over and over for her work and determination in championing women in the industry.
From Elizabeth Wynn, VP, Director of Client Engagement
Helen Lansdowne Resor (1886-1964) was an advertising icon known for her dynamic and creative approach. She used visual and textual effects to connect with her target audience’s emotions. In 1908, she was hired as J Walter Thompson’s first female copywriter and is credited as the first woman in America to design and implement national advertising campaigns. She sought to hire and train talented young women — playing a key role in the advancement of women in the industry. Because of Resor, many women were able to enter the male-dominated field of advertising. She firmly believed that “copy must be believable” and therefore, women must have a seat at the table.
From Sara Anders, VP, Director of Channel Strategy
After writing for newspapers and magazines, Mathilde C. Weil (1872-1942) found that buying and selling ad space was a more lucrative career. In 1880, she founded the first female-run advertising agency, the M.C. Weil Agency in New York with two female partners. Essentially a boutique media agency, the firm functioned as the middle WOMAN between advertisers and publications. Mathilde ran the agency for more than 20 years.
From Prussia George, VP, CFO
Women began delivering influence in the field of accounting in the 1800s. Christine Ross sat for the CPA Exam in New York in 1896 where she placed in the top three in her group. The first black woman CPA was Mary Thelma Washington. Washington obtained her licensure in 1943 and became the 13th African American in accounting. On the advice of her mentor, Arthur J. Wilson (the second black CPA in the US), Washington studied accounting at Northwestern University. As a student at Northwestern, she started her own accounting firm from her basement. Muhammad Ali was amongst her clientele.
Women have achieved parity with men who graduate with accounting degrees. Yet, women of color continue to be underrepresented. In the professional ranks, 62% of all accountants and auditors are women, but only 23% are women of color and only 28% are partners or principals. The mentor-mentee relationship Washington experienced is important to retaining and investing in female leadership in accounting.
What’s next for women in communications
You’ve heard the saying the future is female, right? Well, stay focused, ladies, because our industry is primed to make that statement a reality. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 39% of managers were women. But in the fields of advertising and PR, women held over 50% of the management occupations for our fields.
We’ve come a long way, but there’s still much work to be done. And as of late, a lot of great conversations have been had in getting more female representation at the very top coveted spots inside the agency setting, inspiring more women of color to enter into the industry and supporting women in tech as our digital and interactive disciplines grow and flourish.
Looking to connect?
If you’re searching for resources to support your own personal career growth, I suggest you check out She Runs It, AAF, the 4A’s or the 3% Movement for their female-focused training programs and seminars. I’m eager to hear more stories of female leadership and also looking to help other women forge their own path in the world of communications. If you are looking to connect, fill out this short form and I’ll be in touch.