“Speak up more loudly” to be heard at work, was the sage advice from a panel held to shed light on sexism in the workplace late last week. Since women in PR are often overlooked in favour of men, ignored and systematically underpaid, PRWeek held an event to discuss and resolve gender discrimination once and for all.
With an all-male panel, of course.
As part of the PRWeek Hall of Femme and Champions of PR conference, which was held at the Dream Hotel in New York last week, a panel comprising of four middle-aged men dressed in suits spoke to women in PR about exactly where they were going wrong when it comes to work-based sexism.
And it didn’t get much better on hearing what the panel had to say. Addressing the crowd, Richard Edelman, CEO of international PR firm Edelman, said that he had asked the women on his executive team why they were quiet during meetings. They responded to him that it was the “macho culture” in the room.
“I asked them, ‘How are we going to fix that? Either you’re going to speak up, or I’m going to have to hammer the guys,'’” he said. The women he asked explained clearly what they felt would be the best course of action – for Edelman to redress the “macho culture” acting as a barrier to women by speaking to his male employees. But Edelman knew better, of course, and refused to do as the women requested. "I said, ‘You speak up first.’”
He added that women have been making the mistake of letting others drown them out 'just because they are guys and talk loudly'
He added that women have been making the mistake of letting others drown them out “just because they are guys and talk loudly”, and said that any problems like this should be corrected by management. Who, presumably, like him, will tell women to “speak up first”.
PRWeek, whose Hall of Femme conference honoured nine successful women in the industry, said the panel had been set up to include men in the conversation and to gain a male perspective. Which is sensible and fair. Just probably didn’t need four male perspectives and to exclude female voices from the panel altogether.
On Twitter, women took Edelman’s advice to “speak up” quite literally, and took to the online platform to say “loudly” that they wouldn’t be working with Edelman PR again. One tweet summed it up quite succinctly, asking: “How the fuck are we meant to speak up if we’re not even on the fucking panel?”
Thankfully, back at the conference, one woman did speak up. Pam Wickham, who was one of the nine trailblazers being honoured at the event, retaliated that “we don’t need to speak up, we need to be heard”. “We don’t need stretch opportunities, we need equal opportunities,” she said. “We don’t need to network more – we need to get paid more. We don’t need men to advise us, we need women who did it to tell us how they did it.”
Now that is speaking up.