Celebrating the Other Woman

Sharon Fenster, Diversity Consultant and Immediate Past-President at PRSA-NY

During Women’s History Month we traditionally celebrate those women who have managed to break through the glass ceiling.  But I want to take a moment to celebrate the women who never break through the glass ceiling.  As one of those women, I believe it’s time to recognize many of the women who work hard, but never make it to the top of the corporate ladder.

Earlier in my career, I worked at a PR agency as a media relations specialist. I was producing remarkable results, not just in press coverage but in strategic planning and leadership with about fifteen junior staffers — training them in the craft of media relations, running incentive programs, mentoring, and breaking records for a top-tier client. It was an amazing, unforgettable experience.  Yet often I felt like everyone above me was reading off a secret script that no one would share, and my boss and assistant conspired against me.

Have you ever had this uneasy feeling?  Like trying to understand another language or not knowing the password that gets you inside?   Working your heart out, but never getting the brass ring?  I was simply not a “fit” so to speak.  girls from Brooklyn College, of a certain age and weight, did not make the cut here.  And, try as I might, I could not find a mentor to help me decode the vernacular.  I cannot imagine what it is like for women of color, or differently-abled or worse, over 40 years of age.  These stigmas push the glass ceiling further away, discouraging qualified women from breaking through it.

Eventually, I left and ended up starting my own PR consulting business. If I couldn’t break the glass ceiling following someone else’s rules, then I was going to create my own playing field. That was in 1999 and I never looked back.

So, let’s give a big round of applause to the legions of women in PR who work hard for their clients, produce outstanding results, but never get that promotion they covet to propel them to the C-suite.

I was one of the lucky ones with a happy ending–not everyone has one.  Many women struggle for years.  Does that make them less deserving of praise and recognition from their peers? No, it does not.  Let’s level the playing field for once and send kudos to ALL women in our industry who are working hard and getting the job done.

About the Author: Sharon Fenster is an entrepreneur and owner of Fenster Diversity Consulting (FDC). The company is a strategic partner that advises its clients on custom solutions that significantly increase employee productivity and morale through business practices and a culture that is enlightened and inclusive. Sharon’s workplace strategies help employees bring their full selves to work. She is passionate about helping each workforce stratum find their authentic voice. As a powerful advocate of implicit bias training, Sharon provides a broad cross-section of solutions that leave all kinds of talent with feelings of respect, being valued, welcomed and heard. Her area of expertise is catalyzing diversity to drive innovation and business results.