Since 1911, International Women’s Day has served as a worldwide celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, as well as a call to action for women’s equality. This year’s theme, #BreakTheBias, highlights the biases – whether deliberate or unconscious – that make it difficult for women to succeed.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we connected with female colleagues across Padilla’s family of brands for a quick Q&A. You’ll hear from Amy Jensen, VP, Agriculture; Natalie Smith, SVP, Corporate Advisory Group; Rosa Johnson, Assistant Account Executive, Health (Padilla); Megan Gaffney, VP, Account Services (SHIFT); Stephanie Chan, Account Director (SHIFT) and Melanie Abron, Assistant Account Executive (FoodMinds).

What advice would you give to women beginning their careers in PR?

Megan: Don’t ever settle and don’t wait for things to happen. Go after what you want, network and collaborate with as many likeminded individuals as you know, join meaningful boards and committees, and most importantly, surround yourself with people that make you feel good. Build a network of confident and inspiring women you can eventually call kickass mentors and cheerleaders.

Amy: Be curious. Ask questions. Listen to understand. Find a couple of mentors and seek opportunities to continue learning – sitting in meetings to observe, grabbing coffee with different people to learn more about different parts of the business, etc.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and why?

Melanie: Do what you love—even if it doesn’t make sense. I love this saying because the vision you have of your dreams looks completely different than someone else’s dreams. Your goals only need to make sense to you.

Stephanie: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s the only way you learn. It sounds really simple, but people underestimate the anxiety brought on by perfection. When I finally “got permission” to make mistakes, it lessened the mental burden and gave me more confidence in my own work. When I made errors, I caught it and never let it slip up again.

Rosa: Trust your gut. I think so often we get caught up in cycles of second guessing ourselves. It’s so important to remind yourself and other women that our voices and perspectives matter, we have the creativity and the fierceness to produce extraordinary work, and like women before us, we deserve to be recognized for our contributions and leadership. So, the next time you’re second guessing yourself and wondering if you should throw that idea out there during your brainstorming session, or take on a new challenge/responsibility and you need to ask a question, or you’re jumping into a room with new colleagues – hold a pose for one minute that makes you feel confident and remember you’ve gotten yourself this far.

Megan: There is no work life balance. Don’t try to make it an equal equation. Life and family always outweigh whatever you’re doing at the office. Period. Also, there is no such thing as perfection. The best you can do is exactly what is needed.

Amy: A former boss used to always tell me to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I think of that often in a broader capacity – thinking about the actions you’re taking now and what they’re doing to set you up for future roles (vs. getting lost in what you’re faced with at the moment). It’s a nice big-picture reminder.

What inspires you about the communications industry and why?

Rosa: We have the opportunity to speak to everyone, absorb new perspectives, create trends, and change minds.

Natalie: I’m always inspired by the way our industry comes together in the most difficult of times to reach widely diverse audiences with important messages, resources and stories of humanity. Over the past two years, the communications industry has become more important than ever. A global pandemic, unprecedented political divisiveness, George Floyd’s tragic murder and the focus on racial equity and social justice that it sparked, social media battles fueled by misinformation and disinformation – these issues and others have changed the way we think and the way we work. It’s been difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. But our collective ability to identify how best to reach others through clear, compelling, authentic and inspiring storytelling has truly elevated the importance of our industry and has helped businesses – and people – survive and even thrive. Despite the crazy hours, insane deadlines and constant changes, I’m proud to be a part of it.

How can everyone collectively best support female leaders within their organizations?

Melanie: Listen more. Continue to create safe spaces for women to share ideas and lead. Be vocal about recommending qualified women for senior positions, awards, and opportunities.

Stephanie: Support means different things to each leader, so the best advice is to ask them directly. For one person, it might be giving them space to try new things, while for others it could be gaining more trust from leadership or their teams. Each person works differently, so don’t hesitate to ask, “How can I support you?”

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