Women have been a pivotal. yet underappreciated, part of PR throughout its history. Shelley Spector, the founder of Spector Associates and the Museum of Public Relations, tells some of their stories in the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview with Doug Simon. She also shares some of the lessons that those women can teach women working in the industry today.

Spector goes back more than a hundred years for the first female PR pioneer she talks about: Doris Fleischman, the wife of “father of PR” Ed Bernays. “She was the one who did a lot of the writing, a lot of the idea creation, but yet she was not allowed, because of the culture of that age, to go into client meetings,” she tells Simon.

Then there’s National Organization for Women co-founder Muriel Fox, who was told “we only hire women as secretaries here” when she first applied for a job at Carl Byoir & Associates. Spector tells Simon that “eventually she was able to get a job at the radio and TV department at Byoir and thrive there, eventually became the head of that department, eventually became the first woman VP ad buyer and probably of any PR agency.”

Barbara Hunter, a veteran of Dudley-Anderson-Yutzy, set out on her own at 65, “when most people would go and retire.” She purchased D-A-Y with her sister and started business as Hunter PR, which still operates today. “They were the first women to buy an agency,” Spector says. “That was never heard of before.”

“Another woman that unfortunately was left out of the history books,” Spector tells Simon, was Inez Kaiser, a black woman from Kansas City who opened up her PR firm in 1957. “So effective was she and such a great role model that she was invited to the Reagan White House to participate in the SBA program and encourage more minorities and women to start their own businesses.”

While these women broke a lot of ground, she adds, the goal of true equality has not been achieved yet. “To this day, where we have 80 percent of the industry made up by women, most of the leaders at the very, very top are men. And that's our next objective, is to take those positions for women themselves.”

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at dougs@dssimonmedia.com

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