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Evening out the gender balance in PR

Laura Bates, PR Manager at the Museum of London

@Laura__Bates

Eventhough the PR industry, especially within the arts, has a great number of women in the workforce, it has always struck me that this is the case only up until a certain level. When you reach board or directorate level it’s largely dominated by men. As an ambitious woman with nine years’ PR experience under my belt this observation in part led me to sign up for the 2016Women in PR and PR Week Mentoring programme. I wanted to meet other women at similar points in their career to share experiences and also to be paired with someone at the top of their game who could offer advice and guidance. As luck would have it all of this happened.

The Women in PR team paired me with my mentor, Ali Jeremy, Director of Communications at the NSPCC (@alijeremy) and to be honest, it couldn’t have been have been a better match for me. Ali runs a huge team and has bucket loads of experience in high-level roles at national organisations in the public and charity sectors, she’s also completely lovely and generous with her time. We had a general introductory meeting soon after the launch and spent over an hour discussing my career to date, my ambitions for the future and much more besides and it was a great chance to hear her story and understand what we both wanted out of our time together. We met multiple times over the coming months mostly face-to-face but occasionally over the phone if neither of us could make it. We went through different topics in each meeting following (loosely) a plan Ali put together right at the start including management, strategy, specific campaigns and career progression. I have to confess that it felt a bit like therapy for me, sorry Ali!

The benefits for me, having been through this process, have been invaluable. Ali has been a great guidance to me offering much needed words of wisdom, advice and support and her one-step removed perspective has been really important.  She’s also challenged me on things, asking questions about my approach and actions, and this is fundamental to this scheme.  Having someone impartial who’s not got a vested interest in your organisation give you their views is a rare opportunity. We almost always run over our allotted time and the option for email and over the phone communication has always been there which in a world of back-to-back meetings and reactive PR activity getting in the way of diaries on my part is a great help!

Another bonus has been the chance to meet the other mentees, who are from a wide range of PR backgrounds. I’ve met likeminded women, like Preena Gadher from Riot Communications and been able to strike up valuable working relationships that will go on beyond the end of the scheme.

I’m lucky to have been fully supported in this by the Museum of London and my Head of Communications while I’ve been part of the mentoring scheme and believe it’s made a positive and tangible difference to how I do my job. There’s a lot more we need to do in the sector to even the gender balance at the highest levels and schemes like this are a great way to get there.

I think a lot of women in PR would appreciate having a mentor so I encourage anyone reading this who’s tempted to give it a go – you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.

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