Several months ago I wrote an article called ‘Female Entrepreneurs Are the Next Wave of Business Success’ on Inc, to coincide with International Womens Day which talked about the World Economic Forum prediction that gender parity in business is still an unbelievable 217 years away.
This statistic is borne out in disciplines such as Public Relations – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics women make up 61.3 per cent of the Public Relations industry yet only 30 per cent of all global Public Relations agencies are run by women. So why is it that women are not rising through the ranks to take on the leadership roles in PR?
Well according to Jenna Guarneri, founder and CEO of JMG Public Relations the only way to achieve a management position within this industry is to forge a path for yourself – at the tender age of just 27 she launched her own agency in New York which specialises in the lifestyle and entertainment sector. Inspired by her entrepreneurial spirit I interviewed Jenna recently to better understand what makes her tick:
As we have discussed gender parity is 217 years away International Women’s Day in March this year aimed to raise awareness of this inequality. What steps have you taken personally to try and bridge the delta?
“Economic empowerment has been a strong component to the women’s movement especially over the last few years with a surge of women taking on more leadership roles and being more vocal on matters relative to equal rights. In order to ensure the mainstream movement continues, we as women are individually responsible for spreading it amongst the women around us whether it be within our professional networks or at home with family and friends. Making the decision to start a business and be a leader is a way I personally see to it that the number of female CEOs within the United States increases by one. Being in a leadership role also gives you an influential voice, so it’s important to use it in a way that encourages other women to make bold moves and positive strides in their own lives. Individual goals will add towards the greater movement”
I interviewed six senior female business leaders including Leigh Thomas from Facebook earlier this year. She was described by one of her colleagues as being “cool, tough and fun.” What 3 words do you think your closest colleagues would use to describe you and why?
“This is a fun question, so I asked members of my team their personal thoughts and they said the three words they would choose for me is “real, passionate, and collaborative.” Being honest is an important attribute as a leader, especially when dealing with new clients. People naturally trust you more when you give honest and raw feedback. It helps build a personal connection. In terms of “passionate”- when you’re passionate about your work, others become equally passionate and it drives motivation. And when you’re collaborative, your team feels like they are a bigger part of the process. They also feel valued that you are seeking their expertise and insight on a matter”
Part of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign was focused on the hashtag #BeBoldForChange – how do you feel that you have been bold in your career and how has that led to some form of change for yourself or other women?
“I think anyone who started their own company will tell you that quitting your job and making the actual move to start your own business is likely the boldest move they’ve ever made in their career. As women we tend to second guess ourselves or worry too much about potential outcomes, but I’ve always had the mindset that if you don’t allow the “f” word (failure) to exist, then you’ll never meet it. Of course, there’s situations where people pour their blood sweat and tears into a project that winds up just not working out, but having the initial mindset will help achieve a positive outcome from your bold move”
What was the stimulus for you to become such a young entrepreneur and launch your own PR business at the age of 27?
“Entrepreneurialism was not something I initially ever thought of. I always knew I wanted to be in public relations, but never did I think about the possibility of being a business owner. At 27 years old, I was at a crossroads in my career where I was looking to leave my old firm to take the next step in my career and while analysing my next move, I realised I personally wanted to set-up something that would become a part of my legacy. Looking back, I now realise my schooling played a huge part in my positive outlook towards the decision. Business school taught me a work ethic that ignited an entrepreneurial spirit in me. I made the decision to start my own business and acted swiftly on it.
The timing for it also worked out well in my personal life. Being an entrepreneur, you have the perk of being able to work from just about anywhere. During my first year in business, I worked from home and had little overhead. Additionally, by coincidence, that year my father received a heart transplant. The flexibility of being able to pick-up and go, allowed me the time to go to and from the hospital. Within the first year of owning the business, I knew I had made the right decision because everything fell into place nicely and was evolving on its own.”
Thanks to Jenna for agreeing to do this interview – if you have any questions for Jenna or myself then please ask them in the comments section and we will try to answer them all.