The career path for women in communications has many barriers.
“In the communications industry, women are three times less likely than men to hold top management positions and earn significantly less money than men do working in similar positions,” says Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, founder and executive director of the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication housed under FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts.
How can women in the field break the barriers and change tradition?
The Kopenhaver Center hosts a yearly conference addressing women’s issues in communications. This year’s conference, “Women in Communication: Breaking the Barriers,” featured keynote speaker Anne Vasquez ’96, chief digital officer for tronc, Inc. Vasquez was the former managing editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which won a Pulitzer Prize under her leadership.
Drawing from her own personal experiences and struggles, Vasquez outlined six strategies for women working in the field.
1. Master self-confidence
Confidence will encourage women to not be afraid of speaking up and be part of important conversations within the organization. “Raise your hand [and speak up].”
Finding that confidence is key. It can be sourced from internal beliefs, family or something else entirely, but it must be created and held onto. “Hold on to it as though your career depends on it, because in some ways it does,” Vasquez advises.
2. Take calculated risks
Vasquez says the most important career decision she made in her professional life was to move across the country. It was that initial leap that showed her that risks have to be taken.
You may not always hit the target; job opportunities or promotions may not work out, but this can fuel a motivation to work harder to achieve goals.
3. Overcome “impostor syndrome”
Women can start to feel the symptoms of “impostor syndrome” after achieving success; they feel like they will be exposed as an “impostor.”
Vasquez says: “Do not listen to the voice that says you can’t do it […] go back and find your confidence.” It’s natural to have that voice that makes you feel insecure, but “learn to overcome those feelings.”
4. Work through “failure”
Failures do not exist; however, challenges do.
Certainly, we all experience moments of challenges and setbacks, but triumphs can only be experienced after overcoming some low moments.
“Work through them and learn from them,” Vasquez says. She recalls her mother always telling her that there is always a solution for everything, which she has found to be true.
5. Change the corporate culture
As women in communications actively pursue their career goals, Vasquez urges them to move forward and change the corporate cultures wherever they work. “We need you and we need more of you.” Vasquez envisions more women achieving executive-level positions in the communications sector.
6. Make use of the Kopenhaver Center
Take advantage of the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication. The center strives to empower both women professionals and academics in all the fields of communication in order to develop visionaries and leaders who can make a difference in their communities and their profession. To learn more about the center and annual conference, visit kopenhavercenter.fiu.edu.