On March 8, 2020, Google’s International Women’s Day doodle featured an animated video that celebrated women throughout the world spanning multiple generations, cultures and professions. With this year’s theme #EachforEqual, we are invited to help forge a gender equal world while remembering what so many women have already done for all of humanity. Around the world their contributions have been life-changing, from Ada Lovelace who was the first computer programmer, to the first American suffragettes who in 1848 held the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York that launched a 50-year movement resulting in our right to vote in 1920.
Living in the West, it is almost unfathomable to think that women in Saudi Arabia only won the right to vote in 2015. From New Zealand to the USA, being granted that privilege took great risk by courageous women who rallied together and protested in the streets. Sending their messages to lawmakers, one could say they were the early pioneers of the public relations industry, recognizing that a consistent, amplified message could change the world.
As the founder of a global award-winning PR firm focused on technology and everything it touches, I have witnessed extraordinary societal changes and challenges, from the AIDS epidemic to 9/11 to the financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic today. As a lifelong PR professional, I do not find it surprising that our field is more important than ever, nor that the industry is dominated by females. According to a study published by Women in PR, women represent two-thirds of the public relations industry worldwide.
While I have never been one to focus on this, I respect that there is a need for both women and men in the workforce and each gender has its own strengths. In support of this year’s theme, however, I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate how far we have come, honoring these amazing and courageous women—just a few of the many that have paved the way:
On the night of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles to warn approximately 400 militiamen that the British troops were coming. Riding twice as far as Paul Revere, the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington rode through the night to warn the regiment the imminent British attack. While she was not lauded the same a Revere, Sybil was thanked in person by George Washington himself and later immortalized with a postage stamp created in her honor in 1975.
Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat for a white passenger on the bus ride home from her high school on March 2, 1955. In spite of being arrested, the fearless teen who was jailed pled not guilty and was given probation. Later, she told Newsweek, “I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat.” Claudette later went on to influence segregation laws in the South.
Although Austrian-born American actress Hedy Lamarr was more renowned as a Hollywood celebrity, few know that she was also an inventor with a brilliant mind. Among her inventions, she worked in 1940 with composer George Antheil to develope a technique for disguising radio transmissions called “frequency hopping,” which made the signal jump between different channels in a prearranged pattern. A secret communication system to combat Nazis during World War II, it was largely ignored by US Military until years later when other inventors realized the capability of the groundbreaking technology, which became a precursor to wireless technologies including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
British-born Rosalind Franklin received her doctorate in chemistry but spent years studying X-ray techniques. In 1951, she was offered a three-year research scholarship at King’s College in London, leading a team that set out to improve the X-ray crystallography unit. Discovering and showing scientist Maurice Wilkins her ground-breaking X-ray image of DNA, known as Photo 51, she was betrayed when he passed along the information to scientists James Watson and Francis Crick, who were eventually awarded the Nobel Prize for determining the structure of DNA. Rather than fading into oblivion, Franklin went on to study the tobacco mosaic virus and polio. Before passing away at the age of 38 from cancer, she established the foundation of modern virology.
As I lead the agency through the most troubling and challenging time in history—our entire team working from home, sheltering in place—I am inspired by countless women from the past and present who remind me that it is through words and actions we can drive real change. Without a doubt, it has been all hands on deck and, thanks to a coordinated effort from a strong team, we remain steadfast and dedicated to communicating clear messages on behalf of our clients, while keeping them connected to their customers and industry peers.