This is a guest post by Sandra Upeslacis who is the Manager, Talent Retention and Acquisition at NATIONAL Public Relations, past articles by Sandra are here.
“You’ve come a long way, baby!” For the communication business, that tagline has even more meaning than the old Virginia Slims ad that got scores of women hooked on smoking. In Canada, women rule communications consulting and it’s time the industry acknowledged it.
It’s no secret that two-thirds of employees at communications consulting firms are women and many of these companies are also run by women. My company, NATIONAL Public Relations, is predominantly female.
More women than men are enrolled in communications programs at Canadian colleges and universities – nearly two-thirds are women. (More females than males are graduating from university in general, but the fact that so many are drawn to communication is of note.)
At a recent information session held in our firm, 100 per cent of the people attending were women – all York University communications studies students. As a member of the female gender, I did not have a problem with the lack of males in the room but I imagine the managing partner of our firm, who generously gave of his time to address the students, may have felt a slight tinge of “odd man out.”
Why should it matter that so many women are drawn to communications? It’s true that most women by nature are good communicators and multi-taskers, both qualities a good consultant should possess. We also rely on our instincts about people to size them up and determine how best to reach them – again positive attributes for consulting. Women are often good coaches and mentors because they believe in listening to others, collaborating in teams, and gathering input from a wide variety of sources to ensure the best outcome and advice is offered to clients.
Where the plus side of the equation potentially falls down is biology. In order to continue life on our planet, most women need to take time off at some point to start a family. This is not a small challenge for a woman. Good companies will have a plan around how to manage maternity leaves, including preparing for the time off, offering training during the leave and developing an individual reintegration plan that includes the use of technology to help the employee manage the new realities of family life.
Many women find that going back to work after starting a family is trying due to the mental and physical exhaustion of motherhood. There is nothing wrong with slowing down to manage career and family simultaneously! Balancing work and family life are serious matters that should be openly discussed and embraced. In our firm, several women changed gears after starting a family, taking on new job titles or positions. Our firm also uses technology to allow for greater flexibility – not only for new mothers but for all employees, recognizing that the needs of every individual are unique. Some women have left entirely to start their own business, but for a company, the loss of a good woman executive is never a good solution.
Baby has come a long way, but there’s still further to go. The big elephant in the room is all the women who have yet to take their turn at maternity leave. Today’s communications professionals should be able to approach their employer with confidence, knowing that many others have already paved the road before them. There is strength in numbers, and according to statistics, women will continue to reign as the queens of communications.
Sandra Upeslacis is the Manager of Talent Retention and Acquisition at NATIONAL Public Relations, Canada’s largest public relations firm with more than 325 employees in nine offices across Canada, in London and New York. www.national.ca . Email, [email protected]