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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: BARRI RAFFERTY
DOUG: So, Barry has spoken on these issues at Davos, Cannes, and now she’s going to be talking about how women can really advance their careers on PR’s Top Pros Talk. It’s great to see you and have you here to share your fantastic advice.
BARRI: Thanks, Doug. Great to see you as well. And this is a topic near and dear to my heart for sure. And when I talk to women, I talk about a few things. One is to be courageous and get out of your comfort zone, push yourself to take on new things, to learn new things. I just joined Clubhouse so I’m trying to figure out how can we work and operate in that venue. So always looking ahead. The other thing I talk about is having a diverse set of mentors and sponsors. And I’m a big believer that women need women, men and even in reverse mentors. I love tapping younger people that are doing things differently, thinking more visually. I’ve had mentors from China helping me be more mobile. So, I really think creating an ecosystem of coaches and supporters around you that are going to help you learn and push you.
DOUG: That’s great advice for women who aspire to be in leadership, but even the women who are currently leaders, what some of the advice you have to how to help others even advance their own careers further and have greater impact?
BARRI: Well, I think it’s interesting, right? First of all, I am a big believer in supporting other women and helping women think about where is your career, what is the career map and really creating a map. And if you want to go to the next level, what are some of the skill sets that you need? So, if you’re running smaller business and need a bigger business, how do you get some scale and project work at scale. If you’re not great at the financial part, can we coach you in finance in getting more comfortable with the numbers? So, I think really taking the time to think about what are the skills you need, what are the networks you need, how do you network over time to have those people support you and go about it and build a personal business plan, just as you would any other business plan and set goals to work to achieve them.
DOUG: And one of the challenges during the pandemic is what you call the “she-cession,” where there tends to be more pressure on women to be taking time off as family demands increase and obviously for pregnancy, many more women have taken time off. And that can be a career challenge. How do you work around those challenges of the “she-cession”?
BARRI: Well, this past year, I think for women, we’ve seen the demands of kids at home, home-schooling, trying to balance work, parents, health and wellness. It has just been really unprecedented. And unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more women out of the workforce too, because a lot of the jobs that women were in have decreased over the last year or so. I’ve encouraged a lot of people to stay active. Sometimes that may mean using your skill sets for a non–profit. Putting that skills to use to keep them relevant and keep networking and be out there. The other thing I would say for those people that are at home now and needed to make that decision is try to stay current. Keep exposing yourself to things. Because we’ve seen this industry, it changes so quickly. The technology, the things that we’re doing change. So, to keep your toe in it and stay relevant. And then for corporations, we’ve started something, and we just had a huge outreach. It’s called a returnship. We call it Glide, which is for people that have been out of the workforce that want to glide back in. And we actually had 800 applications for 35 spots. We’ve got to figure out how to scale it, but last year when we did it 85% of those people after an eight–week internship ended up coming in full time.
DOUG: That’s fantastic.
BARRI: So, I think there’s an opportunity, for companies and agencies to think about returnships and reskilling, onboarding, ways to bring women back in that might have been out of the workforce for a year, two years or so and need to come back. And I think we’re going to have to work harder at that in the years to come after the pandemic is over.
DOUG: And I’ve noticed that Wells Fargo has also had some significant improvements in having women in senior positions throughout the organization, not just in your role as Head of Communications. What are some of the key factors that other companies could maybe take away of how to make that happen?
BARRI: Yeah, it really was that point for me as I was going through the interview process, seeing someone like Mary Mack who runs our consumer banking, one of the biggest jobs in the company, Kristy Fercho, who runs consumer lending and has 25,000 people under her. So, I think that what I would say is really making sure that there is equal opportunities in your agencies and companies, making sure that your diverse pools of applicants. So, we’re very intent at Wells Fargo, making sure that we have a diverse pool, and we have a diverse interview group. So, both, because how you’re evaluating people needs to be equitable, and how you’re looking at candidates. And then really making sure that there is mentoring and sponsorship and clearly identifying top talent and helping that top talent be successful in your organization.
DOUG: I was going to just say, diversity goes even beyond gender. How do you create sort of ethnic diversity within increasing women and other members of other communities? Because that can be challenging.
BARRI: Yeah, and look, I think in communications, we know women is not necessarily the problem. Women in top ranking positions is the problem and diversity of ethnicity is the problem. And so, I am working on it myself, even though I’ve been an advocate for a long time as to building a more diverse network and making sure that you’re meeting people and elevating those people, that you’re mentoring people in your organization and making sure that you create an inclusive environment where people can bring their whole selves to work, feel comfortable in their own, being diverse and coming to work with those differences and accepting those differences. And so, part of it is us being more intentional about hiring and recruiting and bringing them into our organizations, but then the key is making them feel at home and comfortable and successful in your organization.
DOUG: Barri, you’ve definitely been a bright light in both the communications industry and now where you’re working at moving these important initiatives forward. Thanks so much for contributing here, and it’s great to talk to you.
BARRI: Thanks, it’s great to talk to you. And I think there’s a lot more opportunity in our field to create that diversity at the top and throughout our organizations, and I hope we can all encourage people to continue to make that focus and be a part of that initiative.