We recently held Meet the Mentors, our first socially distanced networking event that enabled potential mentees to meet current mentors, learn about the programme, and network with senior industry figures.
At Women in PR, we believe that male change-makers, who share our values, can play a critical role in improving diversity and equality within the industry. Last year we introduced male ambassadors to the organisation and now, for the first time, we are including five male leaders as mentors on the scheme. Through ‘reverse mentoring’ these mentors will deepen their understanding of the challenges, and sometimes negative experiences, many women in our industry have and our hope is that they will use this insight within their own organisations as well.
Our new mentors are from a range of backgrounds and sectors, which we hope will provide a new perspective and ensure that we are offering an inclusive experience – giving all mentees the best possible chance to create the career they want.
David Holdstock, Director of Communications, Local Government Association is one of our inaugural ambassadors at Women in PR and has now joined as a mentor. He believes that being a mentor means being able to listen and to act as a sounding board, and that this gives mentees a place away from the usual working environment for some thinking time.
David has been involved in schemes such as the LGcommunications Future Leaders’ programme and hopes that this experience and his networks, may be helpful to anyone involved in the programme, and especially his mentees.
We asked David about his thoughts when it comes to women in leadership and senior positions in the PR sector, and he told us, “I still see, in some places, a ‘hero’ culture of ‘the only way to get on is to be seen in the office every day, work every night and every weekend’. This is closing the door to so many talented people who are both looking to progress in their careers and seeking to prioritise their family life and other commitments. In a society where we know women bear the heaviest burden of caring responsibilities, it impacts them the most.
“I think adapting our ways of working during the COVID-19 crisis has shown us all that working differently can bring benefits. Reducing commuting time, blending home and family life, and flexible hours can all help to support more women into senior leadership roles.”
With his advice to others that ‘enthusiasm is everything’ we think anyone who gets to work with David is going to be in for a truly valuable experience.
Seb Dilleyston, Joint Managing Director of Hope&Glory has had significant mentors throughout his career (whether they knew it or not!) with each one helping him in one way or another. Be it advice on dealing with clients and how to push yourself to get to the best creative work, through to the importance of balancing work and life, it was this background influence that spurred him to take up the challenge with us.
As a mentor himself, he says that he wants to share experience – the good, the bad and the ugly! Give opinions and thoughts and, genuinely be a person that listens – and that made our hearts sing. If you would like someone you can talk to about pretty much anything in your career, Seb could be the mentor for you.
Hope&Glory has strived to achieve a 50/50 gender balance at Board level and Seb told us, “I genuinely think that having more women in leadership positions makes your company better. Simple. It gives different points of views and styles which can only create a better outcome, both from a work perspective (across clients/brands) through to having a positive impact on the team and culture. It also, at its most simple, demonstrates a way to the top for the next generation of female practitioners. As a father of a girl (and married to an incredibly driven woman!), it’s such a key thing that a new generation of practitioners see a viable route forwards without the glass ceilings of old. It makes us a better agency and a better set of individuals.
“More opportunities like this, alongside industry bodies like WPR and individual advocates, are needed to promote the challenge to the top of the agenda. There have certainly been positive steps forward, but more is needed.”
As we said, our Meet the Mentors event was online last week, a big change from our past in-person sessions, so we were keen to know how Seb sees COVID-19 changing the way we work in PR.
He said, “What Coronavirus lockdown has shown me is the resilience and adaptability of people, and the fact that working remotely can absolutely work. We’ve known this for some time at H&G and we’ve had a flexible working policy for years, but seeing it at scale and working really is brilliant. It has also demonstrated just how important community and culture is, for motivation, for gelling people together and for having fun in difficult times. I’ve also seen opportunities for individuals to shine over the past couple of months, for example it has given a platform to quieter voices to come to the fore and shown quite insane tenacious skills from younger members of the team.”
Bearing all of this in mind, we hope this insight from our new mentors will give you an added incentive to get involved and make a leap of faith for a brighter future in PR.
The deadline for 2020 applications is the 12th of June, more details can be found here and you have just ten days to apply.