In a public relations career that spans the ‘80s through today, I have seen, heard and experienced it all. With some steps that have been very traditional, while others have been far off the typical path, I have created on my own a rich and rewarding career – albeit sometimes at the expense of my personal life. I stand here, approaching the final chapter of my career, with some tough learnings under my belt but it is those that have enriched my professional life beyond measure.
I am passionate about public relations, creating opportunities, and enhancing the visibility of my client businesses and executives. But there is a higher calling about which I am even more passionate and dedicated.
Agencies of the Future, much like agencies of the past, will be built by women, but women in the business world today, after so many years of advances and revolutions, still lag behind men in too many ways. Women are still fighting for equal pay. We are fighting for equal opportunities in the C-suite. And women of color are still fighting to be included at all.
How can we continue to make advances in the face of the obstacles in front of us?
One way, the simplest way, but not always the easiest, is to keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other. All of us must do this. Women new to the workforce; women who are first-generation college graduates; women aspiring to executive positions; women looking to balance work and home and family. All of us individually and collectively must keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other.
But there is more to be done, and I believe that women and men who have achieved in their careers, have a duty to continue to pave the way, and pay it forward for the younger generation of women. I counsel women to remember a few things: They deserve to be here, they deserve a place at the table, and they do not need to — make that must not — apologize for having ideas to contribute.
The days of women raising their hands and asking if they might say something are over. We are here because we deserve to be here. We are not here as a favor to our mothers. We are here because we have “worked” to be here. Be confident in your abilities. To the young women out there entering college, entering the workforce, and fighting their way up the ladder, I encourage you to remember these things.
And to the women and men, like me, who have been there and done that, I urge you to give back. We all have had someone along the way, a mentor, a parent, a role model, an icon, who has inspired us to be better, to be our best. Everyone, both women and men, needs and deserves that.
This blog is part of our Agencies of the Future podcast. To listen to Jennefer Witter’s episode, click here.