How Can PR Help #BreakTheBias?

March 8, 2022

For International Women’s Day, Golin’s Hong Kong MD Jane Morgan looks at how the communications industry can tackle gender bias. This piece was originally published in PRovoke Media.

Every year, on March 8, individuals, companies, and communities globally celebrate International Women’s Day noting impressive achievements, but still the gender gap remains too wide. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Pay Gap Report for 2021, on its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide. This is incomprehensible.

Awareness is not enough: intervention is needed within every facet of society. With the rallying cry for 2022 to be the year we #BreakTheBias, what role can we, in public relations, play?

Operating with education, understanding and parity at our core
Bias can be unconscious and unintentional which is a huge roadblock on the journey towards closing the gender gap. Implement unconscious bias training for yourself, your people and your clients to create space, bring reflection and motivate positive actions.

With regard to supportive operations, it’s important not to make assumptions of what women in your workplace want: do the homework. Unless there are open lines of communication, we can’t flex and change quickly enough, or know what’s working and what’s not. In Asia, we carried out a survey that gave our people the chance to tell us their gender- and sex-based needs and expectations. From this, we could build genuinely helpful initiatives while continuously adapting existing policies and support circles. Don’t be afraid of not being 100% perfect: this is a journey that requires consistent momentum as needs and situations change.

Robust, progressive policies such as enhanced maternity and paternity leave, return-to work flexibility as well as non-family raising related initiatives are critical to providing a work environment of active advocacy. Don’t be ‘average’ – it won’t cut it in the Gen Z talent marketplace. Instead, look to ensure your policies go above and beyond.

And remember to connect the dots – you probably already have the ecosystem needed. Human resources can gain insights, leadership teams can make operational decisions and internal communications can convey support systems and empower employees. All need to be aligned, work together and have a regular feedback loop in place.

Nurturing and advancing female leadership in our industry
We are responsible for ensuring we have the right environment for our female talent to progress, and to inspire the next generation.

The career ladder is no longer linear, with talent wanting to try new things, for new reasons. It’s time to create fresh career pathways and throughout those pathways, allow career breaks and shapeshifts to be commendable life decisions. As we all know, for years women have traditionally taken career breaks to have and support their children, so we know this is something we need to adapt to should this be a preference. And beyond that, we see Gen Z putting purpose and experience at the heart of growth, meaning the traditional ladder is defunct and the future of talent depends on giving them the flexibility they need and want.

Seeing other women take alternative paths to success is key; for us, that meant kick-starting the IPG Women’s Leadership Network community for our people, regardless of gender, to listen, converse with and learn from those at the helm of our business.

Creating change through our work
We have a powerful opportunity to create movement towards forging gender parity. Through tone, verbatim or thematic, the campaigns and content we create can shape conversations, as well as ensure that brands are not contributing in a way that doesn’t support the cause.

Across our industry, PR professionals are proud to create waves of progress through their skillset. This and every day, ask your team about the change work they want to do. For instance, last year, we worked with United Women Singapore to launch their Boys Empowered programme, aiming to prevent gender-based violence by redefining male stereotypes and advocating for healthy masculinity – approaching the gender gap from a differing perspective. Examine the remit of what you are working on right now. Aside from being the right thing to do, purpose-driven work makes business sense.

Driving the conversation
At Golin, we’ve started presenting our DEI manifesto as a key slide within our agency credentials. It’s a small step but one that communicates with clarity to clients, prospective partners, vendors, and our people that we expect equitable respect – and they should receive it in return.

Through our clients and contacts, communicators connect with hundreds of people across a variety of industries and sectors every single day. Through positive interaction, progressive work and behaviour modelling, we have hope that every March 8 that follows brings us closer to the goal.