LABS 90 High Holborn
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
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8th March 2023 | 6 min read
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we invited female LABS members to share their personal and professional experiences to tie in with this year’s theme, which is embracing equity. For context, while equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
PR professional Anna Geffert talks about what the senior leadership team can do in terms of women’s career progression, greater transparency about the gender pay gap and asking for help when you need it!
Please tell us about yourself, your business and your background.
I have worked in PR for the last 15 years. Just under four years ago I set up my own PR agency, HERA Communication Strategies, with a seven-month-old baby just three months before the first lockdown.
Our business specialises in corporate and financial PR and as a result of working in primarily male-dominated sectors, I have always been driven to advocate for gender equality in the PR industry and the wider business community. I was voted onto the Women in PR committee five years ago and I also served as President of Women in PR for two years. I am now on the Global Women in PR Board, a Fellow of the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) and I sit on the Board of Trustees for the Haemophilia Society.
Tell us what this year’s theme means to you and how your business supports diversity, equity and inclusion.
I think equity has a huge role to play in the journey of creating an equal playing field in our business communities. There is a significant piece of education and understanding still to happen amongst most senior business leaders.
In my experience, the thing that challenges you the most, that makes you different; that you often struggle with; that drives you forward; that makes you work twice as hard, and gives you the capacity to be twice as brilliant.
And this is what we need the CEOs, boards and senior leaders in our industry, and across the business community to see: there is a real opportunity for brilliance when you welcome diversity into your business.
What further resources and opportunities would you like to see in your particular sector to progress women?
There needs to be openness and transparency in terms of the gender pay gap reporting, which I believe should be reported by any business employing over 100 people, rather than the current 250 threshold. I believe that the ethnicity pay gap is only really starting to be reported on and analysed, so more needs to be done to shine a light on that disparity. Then we can begin to understand why it exists and how we can close it.
Any company over a certain size should also legally have to disclose their maternity policy on its website and the government needs to subsidise more childcare for working mothers, to enable more women to come back to work, without having to wait until school. The cost of childcare in the country is far too high and is creating a significant barrier for women to return to work.
If you’re an entrepreneur or working in an SME it can sometimes be a struggle to know who to turn to for career advice. With this in mind, do you have a mentor and if so how did you establish them as your mentor and what do they do?
I have several mentors who have helped me in my career: they are my support network in many ways. They range from former bosses, my amazing parents and husband, formal mentors who I applied to work with via programmes such as the Women in PR Mentoring Programme and also people who I admired in my industry and I plucked up the courage to cold-email. They all support me in different ways because, as a female business owner, with health challenges and two small boys with health challenges as well, I need a lot of support. One of the worst myths is that to have it all, you have to do it all – and the fact is you can’t. You need help. And one of the best ways to succeed is knowing when and who to ask for help.
What advice would you say to give to someone who is finding it difficult to get their voice heard at work?
Realise that sometimes, the best way to succeed is to fail and to never stop trying. Get louder, change the narrative, change the platform or medium you’re using, and if all else fails; change who you are trying to be heard by.
Let’s take another look at what equity means – How do you balance career, personal life and passions?
In short, I don’t. I love what I do so my work is such a passion for me. I haven’t found the right balance yet, but I am trying. I think keeping fit and healthy is really important and I try to build in exercise as much as possible. So having a gym at LABS is amazing. I run with, instead of walking, the dog. I often walk rather than take the Tube or bus so I can make calls, exercise and enjoy our beautiful capital. They are little things, but it all adds up and helps to avert the dreaded burnout! The key is to listen to your body and mind, and watch for signs – take the time you need and get that early night and relaxing bath at exactly the right time.
And if we take equity in the financial sense – what’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever been given?
Find a good accountant and never let them go.
What advice do you have for women looking to establish and/or grow their own business or within the company they work for?
Go for it! I never set out to be a business owner, I was approached by a big client while I was on my second maternity leave and I took the opportunity. But I can safely say it was the best career decision I have ever made. You never know until you try. As women, we are naturally more risk averse, but now is the time to try.
And finally, what’s one piece of great advice a senior female relative, friend or colleague has ever given you?
True to form, I can’t choose just one – so two for the price of one! “You have nothing without your health” and for when I’m trying to control the uncontrollable, “What will be will be” – from the wisest of women, my wonderful mother, Margaret Geffert, who raised the five of us effortlessly.
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