With Women’s History Month rolling along, we took a few minutes to speak with Susan Veidt, regional president and GM of Fleishman-Hillard’s St. Louis office. F-H recently appeared on the list of “Top 50 Companies for Executive Women” compiled by the National Association for Female Executives. Veidt leads the firm’s largest office/HQ in St. Louis and manages the company’s central region, which includes offices in Chicago and Kansas City.
We discussed the strides that women are making in the industry, and the places yet to go. On the issue of pay, which we previously discussed with Professor Bey-Ling Sha from San Diego State University, Veidt says that the way women communicate is one hurdle.
“Women don’t advocate as aggressively or negotiate as strongly, so I think that might be one reason why the disparity exists,” she told us.
Click through for more of our discussion on women and the PR profession.
Do you find, not just there at your firm but across PR, that there are more women reaching the management level?
Definitely so. Many of the group leaders, for example, in the region that I manage are women. Three of the four offices are managed by women. Our chief operating officer is a woman. So I think women are taking their rightful place in management, and are taking strong leadership positions and are being compensated accordingly.
What can PR firms do to encourage women in their careers?
Certainly training, not only in skills but in financial management — the management of large accounts and the management of large teams. Through training we can encourage people to realize their full potential.
And mentoring. It’s important to identify talent that has the potential to grow and take us to some new and interesting places, to find the people who can be the future leaders of our industry and our companies, and to aggressively work with them to help them to achieve.
Through talent mapping, talent mentoring, and proactively doing career mapping with individuals, it benefits not only the individuals involved but the organization as well.
We wrote about F-H’s appearance on NAFE’s list. Can you talk about the impact that has on your work and business?
It affects us in many ways that are positive. I do a lot of recruiting and I’ve interviewed five or six candidates in the last two or three days and three of them have mentioned the recognition. They’re interested in Fleishman-Hillard because they are attracted by that, they value it, they see this company as a place where they’re going to get great opportunities. So it has tremendous impact on the recruitment and retention of new talent.
It’s important to our clients because, in many cases, they aspire to have women in management in their companies. They seek to work with companies that look like them in that regard. It speaks well to our overall reputation and how we can provide a very balanced and diverse viewpoint in the counsel we offer.
I mentioned that women make up a large segment of the PR population. Why do you think women are so attracted to PR in the first place?
It offers the ability to be creative, the opportunity to make a difference, and we’re able to do great things on behalf of our clients. It’s a profession in which you can use your talents and skills, express them creatively, and make a meaningful impact on society or on a client’s business.
It requires great problem-solving, teamwork, and persuasion, as well as finding common ground. And I think both men and women can succeed in an environment that’s very team-oriented. And it plays to the strength of women as team builders.