PR’s Top Pros Talk… Women Leaders – Ashley Miles
Ashley Miles, Founder & CEO, Franklyn West, and President, New York Women in Communications
>> More episodes here
About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: ASHLEY MILES
DOUG: Ashley, let’s start off with your perspective as the leader of Women in Communications in New York City, as we transition to this hopefully post-COVID period, what are some of the complexities and challenges for women and women of color in the workforce?
ASHLEY: Well, Doug, the pandemic has been an economic disaster for women across this country. And with 80% of all jobs lost in January were women, 80%. So, that’s 5 million jobs lost for women in the past year. So, if you look at the stats, it’s incredibly alarming, which is why New York Women in Communications, the premier organization for women, that’s really all about helping women propel forward in both their professional and personal lives and throughout the communications industry, is stepping up in this critical time to shine a spotlight on these stats and not only shine a spotlight, but also conduct very robust research, both nationwide in the communications industry as well that will then inform the solutions that we put out to CEOs and leaders across all major industries, but specifically within the communications industry to take immediate action.
DOUG: Tell us about some of what you’re finding with that research.
ASHLEY: Well, we just started conducting the research, so we’ve been really focused over the past several months on the awareness and shining a spotlight and the launch of Women Heard. We have secured two major research partners. One that’s specifically doing a deep dive on the nationwide consumer research, but then a separate research partner who has expertise within the communications industry. And when I say communications industry, I mean every aspect of the industry, the advertising, marketing, creative community, entertainment, media, every aspect, publishing, platform agencies, we’re going really deep with that partner. They’ve both kicked off the research two weeks ago and we’re going to be receiving ongoing feedback from that research, which will then inform a podcast, a Women Heard podcast that we’re launching this spring. It will inform our student bootcamp that we do annually, can you imagine how students are feeling right now and the uncertainties? I don’t know if you have any college kids, or friends that with kids there’s a crisis happening with the college students as well. So, we want to make sure we’re getting in front of them and giving them the information, the tools, the resource, the community and access to land their next job. And it will also be informing the programming that we do for mid-level executives and then senior executives who are pivoting their careers. A lot of women in the industry are pivoting their careers, whether it’s to launch their own businesses or land their next role. And then finally, there will be a culmination where we reveal the white paper for both nationwide research and the communications industry at our annual Matrix Awards, which I’m sure you know, 50 years we celebrated last year, this will be our 51st Matrix Awards this year. And then following will be a digital symposium where we’re speaking to women who have experienced this job loss. Also, men in the industry, you get their point of view because it’s really about creating allies and really having an open dialogue that’s informed by research, but also is actionable to help companies reimagine the workplace to better serve women in a post-COVID-19 world.
DOUG: And obviously, our audience, they want the answers right now. I know it’s great you’re doing the due diligence on the research, and in your role with your company, Franklyn West, you’re advising businesses to accelerate growth. What are you advising organizations now to get these talented women, especially, back into the workforce for those who want to be part of it?
ASHLEY: Yeah, I think it’s about asking CEOs and business leaders to first stop and listen and look inward at your own organization to say, of these female employees that I have now, what am I doing to retain them? What am I doing to help them have a good work experience, to create more flexibility and listen to what their pain points are? And you’ll be able to identify the opportunity for your organization to retain and grow that talent. And then secondly, my ask would be for CEOs and business leaders across every major industry to re-engage those women who left your companies, not to necessarily bring them back into jobs that might not exist, but to lend support. And again, to listen to say, how’s your experience, what’s going on and how can I be supportive. There’s incredible mentorship that could be happening. There are jobs available that within your network we can support these women to get back in the workforce. So, I think it’s twofold, but first and foremost, it’s stopping and listening and looking inward within your own company because every company is different, and every company has opportunity.
DOUG: One of the challenging things about the pandemic is while it is causing dynamic change and rethinking, it’s been very unequal in terms of what types of business, if you’re in travel communications, it’s been much more of a challenge than if you’re in healthcare communications, as an example, for businesses, it’s been more of an imperative to communicate. What can women who may have had success in an area that’s not as much in demand currently, to try and get back in to gain access to opportunities for the growing parts of our business?
ASHLEY: Don’t underestimate yourself. We all have unique strengths and qualities that apply to multiple different businesses and industries. I’m learning that myself, growing up primarily in the communications, media and entertainment business, spent my career building and scaling top consumer media companies, including Refinery 29, from early stage into a nine-figure business Thrive Global under Arianna Huffington leadership. And now with Franklyn West, I’m able to have purview into many different companies and industries. And what I’m learning is, there’s so many synergies between different companies and industries that if you really apply your unique strengths and superpowers to what that company needs to get to the next level, there’s so much opportunity out there for you.
DOUG: And there’s an an extra challenge for women of diversity as well, who were even behind before the pandemic started. Do you have anything specific advising and encouraging diversity and creating opportunity for women who have to face those added hurdles?
ASHLEY: The disparity for women of color is severe, right? Especially black women, Hispanic women, every major business leader and CEO should be taking that into consideration. And whatever you can do to help lift those women up and open up opportunity, it’s our responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion within their company. And by the way, it’s not a nice to have, it’s a must have, it’s good for business. I believe, I wrote an article called Bold Choices at the beginning of the year, and there’s lots of stats in that article around diverse teams. Diversity of ethnicity, age, gender, skillset, passion areas makes for better business.
DOUG: Yeah, and you brought up age women after, say, taking a she–session, whether it was voluntary or not, come in is older. How can they counteract maybe some of the age bias that would prevent the company from looking at them compared to sort of the fresh new talent coming out of the different schools?
ASHLEY: And we’re doing a lot of work on this topic at New York Women in Communications, which is really about celebrating all ages and career stages. So, from the WICI Awards, which is up and coming, student boot camp, WICI Awards into Matrix, it’s so important as an organization to have empathy and consideration for all of those different ages and career stages. I would say, this is a leadership opportunity. This is about business leaders, CEOs, CMOs across every major industry to open our eyes to the amazing talent out there to say it doesn’t matter, your skin color, your age, right? It matters about what are your unique strengths, and how does that apply and match up with my growth areas within my company.
DOUG: Or actually, it does matter to make sure this diversity of thinking within an organization which we’re having. And thanks so much for sharing your great input and congratulations on the continued great work that you’re doing.
ASHLEY: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.