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“Is the PR industry due a #metoo moment?” asks Jo Carr. With some first steps to creating safer cultures in agencies
thinking
16th November 2023

“Is the PR industry due a #metoo moment?” asks Jo Carr. With some first steps to creating safer cultures in agencies

Reading the news is pretty triggering at the moment if you are a woman.

A daily litany of upsetting stories details predatory, discriminatory and violent acts against women and girls, sometimes with tragic consequences. It’s a lot.

And it’s not just playing out on our streets, on our TVs and in our homes; it’s also happening within our workplaces. But what about what we do within our own industry to protect female employees? 

A disproportionate number of young women want to enter our profession. A profession that is traditionally skewed toward women yet historically – and in some places, still – run by men (luckily that’s changing).

Ask any senior woman in this industry and I bet they’ll regale you of instances earlier in their careers where they’ve either been subjected to or witnessed inappropriate behaviours, lewd remarks or unwanted advances.

And I’m very conscious that this doesn’t just impact women but also men. The underlying component here is power and people choosing to exert that power in an exploitative way.

So, what can agencies do to protect their workforces?

The first step is to educate your team on what constitutes sexual harassment. “Harmless banter” is never harmless if it’s marginalising or objectifying someone.

Enshrine a “zero tolerance” approach to harassment in your client contracts and service promises.

Be clear about the consequences: a principle isn’t a principle until you’ve fired a client.

Put in place clauses, policies and protections wherever there is an axis of power that does not favour agency staff beyond the agency walls – whether that’s a media meet, an influencer event or a celebrity party.

Ensure you have clear policies in place internally, plus an escalation process so affected employees know how to make a complaint.

Take every complaint seriously. Be swift but fair where there are issues raised and have a clear procedure for dealing with such situations.

Encourage allyship. “Everyday sexism” is called that because it permeates every aspect of daily life. Call it out.

To finish with an adage popularised by Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Those of us in charge need to hold that power lightly and protect those around us from those who don’t.

By Jo Carr, founder and Chief Client Officer, Hope&Glory. This article first appeared in PR Week

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