Art Stevens, Managing Partner, The Stevens Group
Let me set the record straight at the outset. I have worked with countless women over the years in all facets of my business life. For more than twenty years I was CEO of LobsenzStevens which became one of the top twenty independent public relations firms in the country. Amelia Lobsenz was my equal partner in the firm until she passed away suddenly in the early nineties. Our firm peaked at some seventy plus employees by the time I sold it to Publicis.
Aside from Amelia Lobsenz, the firm employed about two thirds women and the rest men. Many of my senior executives were women and they remained with the firm for many years. In short, I never, ever, had a single issue with women in my work life as a result of their gender.
I personally believe that the public relations profession was among the first to value the role and impact of women. Today there are many women who head public relations agencies. There are many women in corporate communications officer positions as well. Many of the client contacts in my former agency days were women. My point is that men and women working together in public relations was – and is – commonplace. Smart women rise to the top of the ladder just as men do. There is no difference.
Am I so naïve as to think that some men don’t have difficulty working with the opposite gender? No. But men who have an issue working with women in the public relations marketplace have issues far beyond misogyny. What it’s all about in the world of business is who can do the job and who can’t. I’ve never hired someone based on gender. I’ve always tried to hire people smarter than me and that’s why I’ve succeeded in business. Male, female, it makes no difference.
Did I ever come across complaints about sexual harassment in my agency workplace? A few times. But I acted it upon it quickly and weeded it out. Disparagement of women in any form had no place in my agency. Nevertheless, there were instances when a boy met a girl in my agency, fell in love and got married. When that happened I preened like any proud father would.
I’m well aware of the many issues involved in the #MeToo movement. But I also believe that the public relations profession has made more progress more quickly in equal gender status than many other segments of contemporary America.
About the Author: Art Stevens literally knows the PR industry at every level and in every aspect, from the inside out and from foundation to pinnacle. Art knows what makes a PR business successful, profitable and valuable. A prolific writer as well as a dynamic executive, Art is subtle, observant and quietly creative, yet not opposed to a good measure of “brandstanding” when appropriate. He has been valuing agencies, brokering mergers and acquisitions, and providing strategic advice for ten years. Art is a former owner and CEO of LobsenzStevens, a Top-20 independent PR agency, which Publicis Groupe acquired.