Empowered Women Empower Women: International Women’s Day at SSPR

By Loni Freeman
Whether recruiting the next PR superhero or leading a training class, Loni always strives to make SSPR a best place to work. She spends her free time chasing after her daughter, searching for the perfect white wine and binge watching The Crown.

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a time to think, act and move toward a more gender-inclusive world. The more we #PressforProgress in our workplaces, our communities and in our own families, the more we learn and demand action for change.

As the HR Leader for SSPR, my success depends on the happiness of the team. As an executive team, we value who you are at home and at work. We created gender-inclusive policies to allow our staff to be as successful in their personal lives as they are in their professional lives. “I honestly can’t imagine going back to a workplace without flexible hours, a focus on employee culture and policies like adoption assistance and paid parental leave,” says Amy Dardinger, Media Relations Lead.

A gender inclusive workplace wasn’t always a possibility. While I was growing up, my mom worked full time. She was never the room parent, she didn’t make it to all of my events and I learned to do my own laundry before I was in middle school. She mastered running a home while leading an entire department. She taught me how to be strong and resilient, and how to challenge societal norms. And she did it without family leave, flexible hours or equal pay.

When I was invited to join the leadership group at another company, I was thrilled to finally have a seat at the table. I couldn’t wait to share my perspectives and create change. Unfortunately, my main assignments those first few meetings were to write the notes and keep the coffee cups filled. Wasn’t this a new era for women, not the 1950s? Kathleen Bisset, Director of Innovation and Marketing, can relate. “In a previous job, I worked at a very 9-5, corporate-stiff company. I experienced the pressures and prejudices of a close-minded CEO who seemingly only promoted men, listened actively to men and surrounded his leadership team with men. I felt voiceless, and it was a defining moment in my early career when I realized my gender dictated my ability to be recognized for my success. This was, of course, one instance in an otherwise mostly positive career working with some pretty awesome men. But it made me realize that the stock-photo image of a chauvinistic boss barking orders wasn’t the true definition of a leader, at least not in the sense that I needed to thrive.”

Our CEO, Heather Kelly, believes in leaving your ego at the door. We are a collaborative team with one end goal: happy clients. We work together to achieve success. “SSPR is the first company I’ve ever worked for that has a female CEO and mostly female executive team. The difference between this and past jobs is night and day. Female leaders approach problems in an entirely different manner; they are eager to listen to their employees and they take their feedback to heart. They are open-minded problem solvers who genuinely want to do what makes sense for everyone. They don’t let ego get in the way. The collaborative attitude at SSPR is strong, and it’s awesome to watch a group of talented, intelligent, caring women rally our team,” says Nikki Arnone, Media Relations Specialist.

Holly Tibbitts, Systems Manager, agrees. “The most inspiring aspect of SSPR is our executive team. They have all influenced my career journey, pushing me to grow and encouraging me to reach outside my comfort zone. They truly lead by example and have taught me the sky is the limit.”

One way we #PushforProgress today is by taking calculated risks. Too often in history, women have remained on the sidelines. Heather challenges us to break new barriers. “I admire Heather as a CEO because she isn’t afraid. Heather wants to try the thing that’s ballsy and different, and encourages others to do the same. She isn’t afraid to fail, and knows that risk plays an important role in success. Because of the culture she’s set forth, I haven’t been afraid to think outside of what’s ‘normal’ and I now find myself innovating everyday tasks – from account work to marketing to internal operational processes. She’s helped me see things in a new light, and I think all leaders can benefit from this,” notes Chelsea Glosser, Social Media Senior Editor.

Within our organization, we value your skills, your ideas and your expertise. We give everyone a seat at the table – what you choose to do with it is up to you. “It’s encouraging to come to work and be able to talk about real issues, share ideas and express creativity without the added layer of resistance that comes with having to prove your credibility before speaking,” says Sarah Davis, Social Media Editor.

Bisset echoes Davis’s thoughts, “My ideas are valued, and I don’t have to fight to get a word in – when I speak, my words matter. I value working under a female CEO and respect the behind-the-scenes work Heather does daily. We all reap the benefits of the hard – and I’m sure at times frustrating – uphill battle Heather took to get to her position as CEO.”

From your first day at SSPR to today, we want our awesome staff of women (and men) to build a better world. “I came from a work environment that was extremely supportive and collaborative. My boss and colleagues were all women and the mission behind our work was to advance women’s leadership for a more equal and just world. Needless to say, that work environment is hard to come by. During my interview with Heather Kelly, I was confident she was the type of leader I wanted to work for. Heather was interested in learning about me as a person and what I could offer to the team. It was clear to me that she values her employees and provides a supportive work environment for all,” shares Rachel Bernstein, Media Relations Coordinator.

Today, on International Women’s Day, try stretching your limits of creativity or seeing a new perspective. Leave your ego at the door and fight for inclusion. And then keep going. Today, I pay special tribute to my mom who made me believe I could do it, and we as an organization salute Heather Kelly for creating a culture that makes us all believe we can be better, bigger and more every single day.



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