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Women’s representation in leadership positions and business is a top priority of Weber Shandwick Seattle—in fact, our office was one of the first companies to sign on to 100% Talent, a long-term gender equity initiative for King County. Globally, Weber Shandwick is comprised of 65% women at the senior vice president level and above.

Here at Weber Shandwick Seattle, we are proud of our commitment to women’s leadership—but we also know that the fight to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace must be ongoing and fluid. To add our own voice to this conversation in the community and to continue learning from others, several of our office members recently attended the Women in Business & Leadership Initiative Winter Symposium hosted by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS

The symposium kicked off with a keynote speech by Artemis Connection Founder and CEO Christy Johnson. Christy spoke about how the rapidly shifting fields of media, entertainment, and advertising are changing for women and minorities, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Christy dove into recent findings from an Artemis Connection study on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry, which found that only 22% of C-suite leadership roles in the entertainment industry are filled by women, and only 4% of those positions are held by women who do not identify as white.

She also discussed media portrayals of women in the workplace and talked about how movies, television, and advertisements often portray female CEOs as negative, bossy and lacking intersectionality. Changing these negative stereotypes about women in the media, she emphasized, is just one of the reasons increasing women’s presence in leadership roles within the entertainment industry is so important.

LEARNING FROM THE ONES WHO’VE BEEN THERE

Michelle Maggs took to the stage and joined Betti Fujikado, principal of Copacino + Fujikado, and Emma Mayberry, director of 100% Talent, in a panel discussion about navigating the marketing and media industry as a woman. Betti offered her thoughts on media portrayals of women in the workplace and discussed how non-CEO women are portrayed as the either domestically obsessed, the selfless nurturer, a sex object, or the help. Michelle shared her own experiences navigating gender-based stereotypes in the workplace, including her own perceptions of inadequacy that she had to overcome early on in her career.

As she told the audience, when a manager informed her that she was up for one of her first promotions, she replied, “I can’t be promoted—I’m not ready!” Michelle’s story reminded audience members that in so many cases, women will hold back from promoting themselves, applying to jobs, or seeking advancement because perfection seems like a prerequisite for advancement.

In our office, Michelle will be the first to acknowledge these perceptions, and remind us: be brave, take risks, and acknowledge the tools you already have, because perfection doesn’t exist (and that, if you’re a woman, it’s likely that you’re more qualified for a position you feel you aren’t ready for than are many men who will apply for it).

NEXT STEPS

The 100 people that attended the symposium left with concrete recommendations for promoting gender equality in the workplace, and a sense that they were not on this journey alone.

Betti and Michelle suggested initiating conversations on unconsciously-held gender and race biases and focusing on recruitment, retention, and sponsorship of diverse groups of women, as well as promoting men’s involvement in the dialogue surrounding gender equality.

But it certainly doesn’t stop there.

At Weber Shandwick Seattle, representation matters to us. Our office is committed to thinking through what diversity means to us, and what it looks like in the workplace—starting with a renewed commitment to promote not just women, but women of color’s presence and leadership within our office.

Bring the conversation to a desk near yours! Our co-workers were excited to bring findings and strategies discussed at the symposium back to us, and are looking forward to attending the next symposium—with more male colleagues in tow.

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