By Tania Correia, senior client executive
As we look back over Women’s History Month and following International Women’s Day, women have raised their hands to pledge that they will continue to fight against inequality in the home and workplace and do more to support one another and the next generation of female leaders. Women continue to face gender stereotypes and assumptions about their roles in society. We must continue to challenge these assumptions and eliminate barriers in order to create equal opportunities.
As part of the #ChoosetoChallenge campaign, we asked women leaders at RPG to share their experiences and advice for other women looking for opportunities in technology and PR:
What do you #ChooseToChallenge?
- Amanda Keane, vice president: “I #ChooseToChallenge myself always to believe in myself, 'cause when I do, others believe in me too.”
- Carolyn Regan, senior vice president: “I #ChooseToChallenge the assumption that one person’s journey is more unique or valuable than another person’s. All our journeys are worthy.”
- Deepika Zafar, vice president: “I #ChooseToChallenge the gender confidence gap by supporting and drawing more women into the spotlight.”
How do you like to challenge yourself?
- Stephanie Styons, senior vice president: “I take on projects that are new and/or different.”
- Amanda: “I ask myself, ‘Am I learning?’ and ‘Am I learning something new?’ Otherwise, I get complacent about what I do and what I can ultimately offer to others.”
- Carolyn: “I hold myself accountable for subconscious judgements. I keep a judgement journal to elevate my own awareness.”
- Deepika: “Knowledge is power. I’m dedicating more time to feeding my curiosity. If something piques my interest, I commit to learning more about it and then putting it into practice.”
What is the best piece of advice you have received in your career to date?
- Allison DeLeo, senior vice president: “Each day, whether at home or work, I focus on being the best version of myself in that moment. Agency work is demanding and always on. Couple that with life and everything it throws your way (planned and unplanned), and it can be overwhelming.”
“A colleague once told me that I don’t need to handle it all – just to be the best I can be in that instance. Don’t worry about what I’m not doing; focus on what I am doing. This advice has helped me balance work and home, better focusing my energy and talents on what, when and how they need to be spent.”
- Stacey Forman, vice president, agency operations: “Whether you have a good work-life balance is up to you. It’s up to you to set boundaries and prioritize your life. Do it early in your career and let it be your precedent. Get comfortable with the word ‘no.’”
- Stephanie: “Try to do one uncomfortable or challenging activity every week. Doing what you know how to do all the time will only help you grow so much. Doing an activity that challenges you, stretches you, those activities help you really grow.”
- Carolyn: “Who would I be and what would I do if I lived my most courageous self and didn’t worry about what other people think?”
- Deepika: “Embrace your ‘weirdisms’ and turn them into skills. I love putting the pieces together and finding creative ways to highlight messaging – it sometimes means spending time breaking it all down, asking challenging questions, and removing the BS.”
Who inspires you and why?
- Allison: “My children inspire me. The innocence, hunger to learn and grow is innate in children. We, too often, lose sight of these attributes as adults, which hinders our ability to be better in every aspect of life. The way my children approach each day with the enthusiasm to learn and explore inspires me to live, work and play the same way.”
- Stacey: “Teachers – all of them – but especially the ones that teach my daughters. This year has looked like none other, but they have rolled with every single change that has come their way. Each new challenge has resulted in teachers finding creative solutions, without the kids feeling the stress that is on their shoulders.”
- Stephanie: “My mother has always been my inspiration. She moved to the United States shortly after she graduated from medical school and a month after she got married. A new marriage and a new job, in a new country. On top of all that, she was a young female physician in a male-dominated profession in the 60s. How challenging that must have been.”
What is one thing you would have said to your 18-year-old self?
- Stacey: “Don’t get stuck when you fail - everyone screws up from time to time. The important thing is to own your mistakes, learn from them, and don’t make them again.”
- Stephanie: “Listen to your gut instincts. We have an inner intuition that we must listen to, it is trying to guide us to success.”
- Amanda: “While we seem to think that experience brings wisdom, I prefer to think that different perspectives offer us the most knowledge and then we make up our own mind.”
- Carolyn: “Take more risks and live somewhere else for a while. You’ll push yourself out of your comfort zone and never regret those experiences.”
- Deepika: “Never try to fit in, it’s boring.”
The tech industry continues to be male-dominated, what can we (men and women) do to create a more inclusive environment?
- Deepika: “There are a few things that can be done that I’ve learned along the way:
- Get more men involved in championing their female counterparts and challenging bias when they see it;
- Review the recruiting process to diversify the pool of talent and root out unconscious bias; and
- Create more investment opportunities for female-founded tech companies.”
Female tech entrepreneurs are struggling to receive VC investment (only 3% in 2010 AND 2019), what is the single most important thing female tech entrepreneurs can do to encourage more investment?:
- Carolyn: “According to an internal report from HP, men are confident about their ability to succeed at 60% of the way. However, women don’t feel confident until they’re at 100%. Women need more faith in themselves that they can accomplish everything they put their minds to and believe in their own self-worth.”
- Deepika: “I would encourage any entrepreneur to demonstrate their savviness. Unfortunately, female tech entrepreneurs, especially those within the femtech space, have to go the extra mile in the pitch room. Not only do they need to find their voice and tell a unique story that demonstrates their passion and demand for their product, back it up with data, financial acumen and proof of their existing efforts, they also need to overcome the unconscious bias of a potentially all-male VC panel that may not ever understand their innovation.”
“Until there is more diversity in the panel, I’d recommend working with a female-backed VC firm, or firms that have set up specific programs for female entrepreneurs, who will better understand you and your product.”
What is the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?
- Amanda: “Believing that we will truly do the best we can—for ourselves, our families (if you choose that path), and in our work.”
What has you most excited about the future?
- Stacey: “Seeing teenagers and young adults jump into action against inequality and injustice. These kids are our future and they are going to make amazing leaders someday.”
- Amanda: “Our intertwining of home and work/work and home has brought an important reminder that we work to live, and not vice versa. This balance is important to ensure we’re bringing our best self to all areas of our lives.”
- Deepika: “We are tackling some of the most complex conversations relating to diversity, mental health and sustainability in business and technology and it’s all for the better. With these conversations, we are going to see a tremendous uptick in new-thinking and innovations that will enrich our lives for the better.”
What piece of advice do you have for young women looking to start a career in PR?
- Amanda: “Be your one true self. While we may always be figuring out what that is, authenticity never changes.”
- Stephanie: “Be self-confident. Be brave. Set boundaries – balance is important.”
- Stacey: “Connections are key in this industry. Foster good relationships even in your earliest intern days and stay connected in the years that follow. This can help you find mentors, new jobs, or even new clients.”
- Allison: “For young women starting in PR – say yes. Yes, to new opportunities and pushing your limits.”
- Deepika: “Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings, every idea and every point can snowball into something fantastic.”
About the Author
Tania is responsible for creative development and media relations. She is passionate about brand storytelling and enjoys working with clients to create impactful messages through the use of content and thought leadership.