Women’s History Month: Celebrating some of the women who keep Hodges moving forward

Happy Women’s History Month! This month, and every month,is an excellent time to celebrate the women in our lives and reflect on those who fought for our equality (and continue to!) As a public relations agency comprised of over 60% women, we view Women’s History Month as an opportunity to celebrate the women around us. We work alongside powerful and influential women every day, not among our clients but on our team as well.

According to the Public Relations Review, women dominate the PR field, making up at least 75% of PR jobs. But that hasn’t always been the case. Many women before us, like Doris Fleischman, Betsy Ann Plank, Inez Kaiser and Dr. Debra Miller, had to fight for many years to change the trajectory of our industry. And we still have a long way to go: women may be dominating the PR workforce in numbers but they hold only 30% of the top positions in the industry.

As we look to the future, I wanted to spotlight a few of my Hodges co-workers that are paving the way in the PR arena to create a more equitable future for our industry. I asked each of them a series of questions about being a woman in the workforce, and their advice is too good not to share. 

Casey Prentice, Account Director

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match. Like so many account directors, the superpower she most covets is being able to read people’s minds.

How can we mentor young girls to dream bigger?

This goes back to supporting each other, and that starts at a young age. Instilling confidence in youth is critical to long-term success, whether in academics or the workplace. It’s creating relationships and role model opportunities so youth can see the possibilities beyond their immediate familial group.

Is there a woman you’ve always admired?

My family has some pretty incredible women that I’ve looked up to my entire life. My mom was in a male-dominated industry, TV in the 80s – hello, and when my brother and I were born, she moved into another role she was passionate about, education. That allowed her to do what she liked while being there for her kids. My aunt, in another male-dominated industry, advertising, helped make the connection that changed the trajectory of my life – introducing me to The Hodges Partnership when I was a junior in college. My grandmother, she was a single mom to three kids, and now in her late 80s is more active than me most days. I’m in awe of all of them.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month is a celebration of life, of the women who have impacted me directly and the women who have made unimaginable sacrifices so my experiences are simplified because of the work they did.

Hannah Robinson, Account Executive

Hannah has only been with the agency for two years, but she quickly became one of Hodges’ media relations experts. She loves telling clients’ varied stories and landing top placements for clients like Mercy Chefs, Colonial Williamsburg and Children’s Hospital Foundation. Hannah is adored and trusted by all of her clients, making her a valued account executive.

What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?

I would tell the next generation of women leaders to find strength in one another. From the start, we are taught to see other women as competition and that we can only find success at the expense of other women. In my experience, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Is there a woman you’ve always admired?

Looking back on my life, it was the women who held me together at my weakest. It was the grandmothers, sisters, coworkers and bosses that taught me the most about life and myself. Women are deeply multifaceted and dynamic, and I’m a firm believer that empowered women empower women.

There hasn’t been anything as meaningful or life-changing for me as being in community with other women. I’d tell the next generation to seek out mentorship opportunities with women they feel aligned with. Invest in other women – hold space for them and see how quickly their life changes for the better.

Michaela Mishoe, Account Coordinator  

One of our newest Hodgers, Michaela came to us after working for a small PR agency in New York. In just her first few months at Hodges, Michaela has become one of our most valuable team members, flexing her content and media relations skills for clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, Virginia Telehealth Network and the Virginia Association of Charitable and Free Clinics. Michaela’s superpower? Juggling it all while always remaining cool, calm and collected.

Why do we need more women in leadership?

In addition to closing gender and pay gaps in all areas of the workforce, I feel like women bring an important perspective to leadership positions. I don’t believe that traits are gendered, but I think that women tend to lead with compassion and open-mindedness, while also being fierce and resilient. Women in leadership also have an amazing ability to organize and bring communities together.

What advice would you give to young women who want to improve their presenting skills?

In addition to practicing your presenting skills by yourself and with others, realize that people will view you as an expert as long as you don’t come off nervous or unprepared. As they say: fake it till you make it!

How can we mentor young girls to dream bigger?

I think we need to encourage young girls to explore and express all sides of themselves. Expose them to the successes and contributions of women from all backgrounds, whether that’s women who are (or aren’t) in their textbooks, or the local community.

Lindsay O’Bar, APR, VP of Client Services and Culture 

We call her the Employee and Community Whisperer. Her work focuses on community relations, internal communications and media relations for companies like Kroger, Elephant Insurance and Estes. By marrying research and strategic thinking, she helps clients thoughtfully engage audiences and the community while driving business results. Lindsay was the first vice president of professional development for PRSA and was the 2021 board president. 

How can women better support each other instead of competing?

For me, I think about how the women in all aspects of my life have built me up and been there for me. When a relationship starts to feel competitive, I try to level set, find common ground and share credit. This has always led me to a positive place with the women I work with – and I’ve been so fortunate to have found incredible friends who are also colleagues.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Take a chance, take a leap of faith and reach for opportunities that come your way, even if they’re outside of your comfort zone. You’re capable of so much more than you realize.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

I have loved Women’s History Month since I was a kid. It was the one time when we’d really focus on the contributions women have made in history. I took my book reports on amazing women, like Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Clara Barton, so seriously and loved to see what the other kids were presenting about. As I’ve grown in business and motherhood, my connection to my fellow women has only strengthened, and International Women’s Day is an emotional day, because I reflect on all the women who have come before me and shaped me – my mom, sisters, friends, colleagues and mentors. It’s a day to really express gratitude and appreciation for all that women do for us.

The four women highlighted above are just a few of the women that keep Hodges moving forward through their unparalleled dedication and positive impacts on the public relations industry. I personally feel incredibly lucky to grow and learn alongside them.

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, Hodges invites you to celebrate the women in your life…and continue celebrating them every day of the year!

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Julia Surber

Julia loves promoting brands she believes in and flexes her media relations muscles on accounts like Virginia Distillery Company and Colonial Williamsburg. Prior to joining Hodges, she worked for Golden Word helping beverage and lifestyle clients achieve their PR goals.

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