Mar 6th 2020

The five things I’d tell a younger me about being a woman working in PR

Before I took my first steps into a career in PR – a few years ago now – the image that sprung to mind was Edina and Patsy from Ab Fab. In fact, one of my first bosses actually had a picture of herself looking like Edina on her desk. Ask anyone their thoughts on the public relations industry, and they might repeat back many of the things seen when watching Ab Fab: parties, socialising, and a whole lot of creativity. But I soon learnt that the reality was, thankfully, a bit more down to earth.

Creativity – yes, every day is different – yes, there’s some socialising and schmoozing – absolutely, but there was also hard work and long hours. So, some of those stereotypes depicting the industry are indeed true, particularly the long hours culture, and being ‘on-demand’ – even though steps are continually made to address such practices, and good agencies strike a much better balance these days. But as with any client service industry, the need to be available for clients or internal stakeholders drives activity. 

It is this nature that causes the huge drop off in female talent at the 30+ point. One could argue that PR and marketing, particularly on the agency side, is not compatible with flexible working due to the service delivery requirements. Thankfully, I would counter, there are agencies (Babel being one) that do things differently, to ensure ‘experienced, parental talent’ comes back into the workplace. As an example, 75% of the senior team at Babel are working parents. 

Although the industry is changing as best it can to the status quo, if I were to look back (oh, that makes me feel old), I would still say there are points in time when a steer and some advice to myself as a woman in the industry would have helped. So, on International Women’s Day, here are my five things I would tell a younger me (although I bet, I wouldn’t have listened).

  1. Trust your instincts. Don’t square peg, round hole it. If something or somewhere isn’t right, be brave enough to make the tough decisions. Things have a way of working out.
  2. Realistic commitment. Be realistic about the commitment the job involves and if this is for you at this point. As highlighted above, the industry is changing, but it is still demanding and rewarding at the same time if you are providing a service. As life changes, this career ‘may not be’ what you are looking for now. Know yourself and get very good at ‘juggling’.
  3. Understand that people will have different priorities at different life stages. Wherever you are in your career, you need to understand those around you if teams are going to work well.
  4. Be ok with yourself. If you choose to work, not work, go flexi or step off, it is ok. You will know what is important to you. People’s identities change as they go through life. Your job role does not necessarily define success, so do something you enjoy.
  5. Be aware that child care is expensive. Be under no illusions, or rely on government promises about affordability. Make friends with those that can help – your parents or neighbours may become your greatest supporters.

And as a final bonus point…

  1. Master the ability to do your makeup and make yourself look presentable on public transport while ‘going anywhere’.

If you’re interested in knowing about Babel’s approach to a work-life balance, or working with an agency that focuses on its employees and how happier employees make better teams for clients, come and have a chat.