DALLAS -- Women in Comms -- Teddy Roosevelt might have advised to "speak softly, and carry a big stick," but for women in comms, the most apt advice may well be to "speak up, and wear fabulous shoes."
Okay, six-inch heels aren't for everyone, but the point is, to thrive in the communications industry, it's important to find your voice, use it and don't be afraid to stand out. (See Championing Change: It's a Cultural Thing.)
These were just a few of the many takeaways from our Women in Comms event in Dallas, our fifth networking breakfast where 100 women came together to discuss the idea of championing change -- how to recruit more women into the comms industry, as well as encourage, retain and promote them. (See More Women in Tech Is Critically Important.)
The women agreed that there is strength in numbers, and that's where the shoes come into play. Our keynoter, Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Partner Solutions, shared with us a story of when the women in her group decided to one day all wear their favorite "fashion-forward shoes" on the same day. It started as a joke, but she ended up drawing attention to AT&T's female employees, which number almost 34,000. (See Mentor Monday: AT&T's Brooks McCorcle, The Collaboration Imperative and AT&T Takes 'Startup Mentality' to Wholesale.)
McCorcle joined Monique Hayward, the director of outbound marketing for Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s network platforms group; Nancy Green, global healthcare lead at Verizon Enterprise Solutions ; and Bita Milanian, senior vice president of marketing communications at Genband Inc. on a panel full of great insights, advice and inspiration.
Click on the image below to launch a short slide show of the morning, sponsored by Intel, with some of our favorite bits of wisdom highlighted throughout.
Creating a positive company culture is actually a people issue, not a women's issue, as Milanian pointed out on the panel. The goal should be to understand how each individual works, draw out their personal strengths and be inclusive of everyone, regardless of their title or job description. That, of course, takes buy-in from the top, support from both men and women and day-to-day execution.
Sometimes the C-suite may bless initiatives that are grassroots from the bottom, but it's in the middle where things tend to fall apart, Hayward explained.
"Technology is such a broad topic and communications has changed the world ... think of what we can do if we brought out the best in each person," McCorcle said. This dynamic, the panelists agreed, is largely driven by feedback and open channels of communication.
Our goal with this Women in Comms breakfast was for our attendees to leave feeling inspired and equipped to start to make a change at their own companies -- change the culture, recruiting practices and perceptions. The panelists offered some good advice on the first step to what can seem like a formidable challenge: find strength in numbers for a bottom-up approach, raise the issue and bring visibility to it, which in turn will help to get the senior leadership on-board for a simultaneous top-down approach.
Hayward asked, "If you aren't working in an environment that challenges the status quo, than what is the point?"
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading