Women in IR: ‘Women have to ask for what they want in business’

Sep 22, 2017
In the latest installment of our women in IR video series, Edelman’s Debra Wasser discusses the importance of mentorship and cultivating the next generation of IR talent

Debra Wasser has extensive experience as both an IR practitioner and a consultant. But she was ‘stunned’ when she heard women are less likely to get top IR roles and fewer women than men are likely to earn more than $200,000, she tells IR Magazine in a new video interview.

For Wasser, who now serves as executive vice president of financial communications and capital markets at public relations firm Edelman, the statistics don’t match up with her own network of successful female IR professionals.

A recurring theme during IR Magazine’s women in IR campaign has been shock about the extent of non-diverse leadership and gender pay imbalances in the profession.

But although the statistics were surprising at first, Wasser says that ‘when you think about it from a high level, women are still fighting for equal pay, equal leadership opportunities and there’s still a glass ceiling.’

Wasser considers herself fortunate to have benefited from the mentorship of several female CEOs throughout her career. ‘Probably the best tidbit I ever got was from one CEO who said to me that women have to ask for what they want in business,’ she says. ‘A lot of us don’t ask for what we want as much as men do.’

Creating mentoring relationships and an inclusive culture is something Wasser has championed since joining the board of NIRI’s New York chapter two years ago. She was the driving force behind launching the chapter’s ‘Next Gen’ pilot program, offering more affordable membership and bespoke programming to people who have been in an IR role for less than five years.

She hopes this trial program will be adopted by other chapters as a way to introduce new IR professionals to potential mentors earlier in their careers.

Diversity in PR

Having spent 17 years as the senior vice president of IR and corporate communications at Veeco Instruments, Wasser explains that Edelman’s commitment to establishing equal gender representation in its leadership positions was one of the many draws to joining the firm.

‘You’d be shocked, once again, that even at the world’s largest PR firm we [women] were underrepresented…Our target is to get our female leadership to 50 percent and we’re currently around 40 percent. I think Edelman is a great example of a firm that works very hard to have a very inclusionary culture and a very diverse culture,’ she says.

Richard Edelman, CEO of firm, recently published an article detailing its progress and explaining some of the demographic challenges facing global organizations trying to achieve gender balance.

He writes that the firm is committed to rooting out unconscious bias in the recruitment process, ensuring that recruitment and succession decisions are made on merit, and conducting a company-wide pay analysis to ensure pay equity.

‘You need to practice what you preach and that’s something that my firm takes seriously,’ Wasser says.

Click here to watch the full video interview or subscribe to our video playlist to be notified when new video interviews are added.

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