Career Tips for Women in PR from Linda Descano

5 questions for the managing director of content/social media for Citi and president of New York Women in Communications.

ny women in comms logoFew industries are better prepared to adjust gender relations and progress for women in positions of power than PR.

New York Women in Communications (Twitter account here) positions itself as “the leading professional organization” for women in the field even if they don’t live or operate anywhere near New York City, and the org recently launched a rebranding campaign to reinforce that position under the tagline “Connect. Create. Communicate.

Linda Descano knows all about it — she spent more than a decade leading Citi’s “Women & Co,” currently runs the company’s content/social media operations, and has served as president of NY Women in Communications for almost exactly a year.

Following the launch of “Vision 20/20,” we spoke to Descano for more on the organization’s goals and the future of women in the communications industry.

1. Why did now feel like the right time to rebrand Women in
Communications?linda descano 2

The organization was founded in 1929 as an offshoot of a women in journalism program at the University of Washington in Seattle. It opened in 1929 in New York and eventually became Women in Communications.

What led us to rebrand was the question: “What do we want the organization to stand for in five years?”

We looked at all our programs, visual elements, taglines, etc. to make sure they aligned with our two pillars: managing the changing landscape of the comms field and helping women succeed professionally.

2. What does the org want to accomplish with the new campaign?

We call it “squircle” because it has no hard edges; it is a way for us to reflect both the power of our members and their feminine touch.

Over the next few months, we’ll be unveiling more elements of the rebranding to coincide with our awards events…but this isn’t just something you just put on the shelf.

We’re about connecting with women who create content across channels and helping them to communicate that fact to the world. Whether we’re talking 140 characters or white papers, it all falls under the communications platform.

3. What’s your take on PR’s persistent gender pay gap?

Research that my employer and LinkedIn recently released regarding women in six different countries shows that they are fairly optimistic that the gap will close. They’re looking for more women in leadership roles and more transparency regarding compensation.

Young women need to feel comfortable discussing not only starting salaries but raises. Women don’t always raise their hands, but we found that when a woman does ask for a raise, she’s very likely to get it.

4. Ahead of the Matrix awards later this month, who are your personal “icons?”

When you look across our Matrix Honorees, you have Dyllan McGee, founder of Makers, who has created so many compelling stories about female leaders that might not otherwise be heard. You have my former manager Lisa Caputo, who served as press secretary under President Clinton, then went on to work at Citi and now Travelers.

Women like Geena Davis, Arianna Huffington, Meryl Streep, and Gloria Steinhem have not only achieved iconic status but also helped bring other men and women along with them to discuss the issues at the day and make a place for others at the table.

5. What advice would you offer a young woman looking to enter and/or move up in the PR world?

  • You have to work smart and not just hard.
  • That means lifting your head up, continuously learning, and bringing fresh ideas to what you do. Also: continue to invest in networking up, down, sideways, inside, and outside your organization, because it’s not just about what you deliver but who you know. Connections are currency giving you access to new parts of a business.
  • It’s important to have a mentor, but it’s equally important to have a sponsor: someone who will advocate for you, help make connections, and help propel you forward.
  • Speak up, raise your hand, and use your voice: don’t wait until you can master all ten skills listed on a new job description. You should volunteer to take on difficult assignments that are important to your company, but you should also feel comfortable saying “no.”

And of course, if you’re in PR, you’ll want to be part of Women in Communications.