Professionals in the media and PR industries play a key role in forming messaging around gender equality that help propel women’s issues to the forefront of political and corporate agendas.

To recognize Women’s History Month, Burson-Marsteller sponsored an open forum discussion, “The Evolution of Gender Equality Conversations,” on March 21 at the Microsoft office in Times Square, New York City. Moderated by Burson-Marsteller’s Managing Director of Worldwide Human Resources Michele Chase, the panel included Bob Bland, National Co-Chair of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and CEO & Founder of Manufacture New York; Isabel González Whitaker, Deputy Editor, Billboard Magazine; and Alan Sexton, Burson-Marsteller U.S. Corporate & Financial Practice Chair and New York Market Leader.

The discussion was largely fueled by a recent gender equality survey (see below) on the platforms and issues most important to addressing gender inequality, which was conducted by Burson-Marsteller Advantage Women in partnership with Penn Schoen Berland. The survey findings reveal current perceptions about gender parity, including the importance of speaking out on women’s issues, the most effective ways to be vocal, the avenues audiences use to stay informed and the persistent challenges women face in the workplace.

Highlights from the research and the conversation include:

  • Conversations about gender equality have shifted over the last decade to one of intersectionality and authenticity. In comparison to 20 or 30 years ago, there is more mainstreaming of women’s issues and gender equality. Of the survey respondents who have participated in a public demonstration, 46 percent of those demonstrations were related to women’s rights. Bob Bland highlighted the range of social issues and minority populations present at the January 21 Women’s March, and the notion that it’s imperative “when looking at equality for women, we look at equality for all people.”
  • Men need to participate more in conversations about gender equality issues. Personal and professional environments play a role in shaping perceptions on gender equality, and it’s important to start conversations with younger generations at an early age. Another place to start, and encourage, these conversations is with executive boards and corporate leadership teams, which remain typically male-dominant.
  • Business leaders should have honest conversations and implement internal change before they address gender equality publically. Subjects like gender parity go to the heart of a business’ values and goals. Seventy-one percent of the survey respondents agreed that equal pay for women is the most important issue for women in the workplace.
  • If you want to build a successful business, it’s crucial to consider gender equality. In 2015, women represented nearly half (46.8 percent) of the U.S. workforce. When business leaders recognize that fighting for gender equality is imperative, and take genuine action within the workplace to support progress, they have noted a positive influence on corporate culture, stakeholder perceptions and the bottom line. These issues intersect with social consciousness, and when action is being taken, it can lead to better corporate strategy and storytelling.
  • Social media is effective at delivering headlines, but traditional media is still essential. Traditional media has demonstrated its importance in our current social climate. We should be concerned about the echo chambers that form on social media and find ways to break through them to engage in conversations with diverse groups. The survey respondents reported that, while traditional news outlets are the least effective platform for vocalizing women’s issues, they are still the most popular platform for keeping up-to-date about them.

Click above to see photos from the event, and check out a PRWeek article covering the panel here.

Burson-Marsteller Advantage Women can help you activate the value of gender balance within the workplace, and develop courageous communications to support all your endeavors.