As part of Illinois State’s COM Week, “Throwing Away the Pink Collar” featured panelists who discussed how they overcame gender stereotypes in the workplace.
Panelists included vice president of U.S. Growth at Golin Jillian Collins Bohr, Construction Colette Rozanski, human resources business partner at Amazon Molly Tesdall and senior account executive at Schafer Condon Carter Kelsey LeRose.
Two of the three panelists said they have mostly women in the positions above them and that their companies are making continued efforts to increase diversity in their agencies, although many fields are still male dominated.
“Especially in the creative field, it’s a male dominated field,” Collins Bohr said, “and that’s something that Golin in particular is trying to spearhead.”
Even in a workplace with more men, there are still particular strengths of women in public relations, Rozanski said.
“They look to me as a woman for some of the things that women are good at,” she said. “I don’t think you should look at that as a weakness.”
Rozanski works in the construction industry and oftentimes she said she is the youngest, and only, female there. Additionally, her work is not the traditional work of a public relations major, but she added that her skills in public relations make her equipped to work in the business world as well. Her “unconventional” career path gave her great experiences and skills that she would not have had otherwise.
“If you’re unsure of what you want to do, don’t close your mind to it. Just be open,” Rozanski said.
A large public relations firm such as Golin focuses on accounts management and growth. The panelists spoke on their experiences in growing and earning higher positions and pay in the company.
Collins Bohr said it is important to know when it’s time to move on to something more challenging. She found herself not learning anything new, so she moved from her smaller firm to Golin.
She and the other panelists noted the importance of negotiating and making sure one gets paid enough for the work they do.
“You really have to have those difficult conversations,” LeRose said. “It gets easier once you start asking for what you think you need and want and knowing your worth.”
The panelists discussed how women have a difficult time negotiating in the workforce and panel moderator Rebecca Hayes said that Midwestern women are at a particular disadvantage.
“Midwesterners are very indirect, and we’re also very humble, and very, very polite and we’re not aggressive,” Hayes said. “It’s like the double layer of feeling weird about asking for what we want.”
The best way to get better at negotiating as a woman, said the panelists, is to force themselves into it. The more practice one gets, the better their negotiating skills are.