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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Proulx

International Women’s Day is Every Day in Communications

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

As communications professionals, we work in a field that’s absolutely dominated by women. It’s actually pretty mind-boggling how under-acknowledged that is, when communications efforts have such a significant impact on every aspect of an organization.


That was made incredibly evident over the two days leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, when I took part in the Alberta Communications Forum, where:


· I was one of only three men who attended the conference.

· I was the only man to present a session and run a workshop with participants.


The brainpower and thoughtfulness surrounding me was impressive (regardless of gender), and I was blown away by the amount of empathy in the room on a number of topics. But I shouldn’t have been.


In 2022, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published a study — the largest of its kind to date — with a focus on “cognitive empathy,” which amounts to a person intellectually understanding what someone else might be thinking or feeling. The notion of “cognitive empathy” goes further, outlining how a person can take their empathy and use it to predict how a person — or audience — will act or feel going forward.


Seems like a pretty important skill for communications professionals!


The study was conducted across 57 countries, with 306,000 participants. In 36 of those countries, women scored, on average, significantly higher in cognitive empathy than did men. Sure, there were 21 countries in which women and men scored similarly, but there were exactly zero countries in which men scored better, on average, than did women.


Naturally, a study of this nature isn’t going to be representative of each individual communications professional. We come from different backgrounds, with different areas of focus, and different experiences. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, though, that the gender with a generally higher level of cognitive empathy is also the more prominent gender in a field that requires cognitive empathy.


In business, International Women’s Day is an important acknowledgment of the incredible work women put forward on a daily basis, with massive contributions that often go unacknowledged. (From a campaign perspective, Ford did a good job of illustrating this through its March 8 “release” of the Explorer Men’s Only Edition. Give it a watch — it’s a solid campaign.)


In communications, though, International Women’s Day hits a little bit differently, when the majority of communications teams would literally shut down if the women involved all happened to phone in sick on the same day.


So, if you’re looking for some women to acknowledge this week, maybe go visit your communications department. It’s likely a good starting point!


Extra Thoughts…

With mention of the Alberta Communications Forum, and in promoting the amazing efforts of women in the field, I do want to mention a presentation by Michelle Lean, Communications Manager with pipikwan pêhtâkwan (pee-pee-gwan pee-tah-gwan), an Indigenous-owned and staffed agency. Michelle presented on Decolonizing Language — a thoroughly interesting conversation.


Anyway, I mention this particular presentation because I’m often asked if I can take on Indigenous Relations. My answer is always a big, “Yes but…”


I have experience working in Indigenous Relations. I’ve been involved in stakeholder engagement specific to Indigenous partners (often referred to as ‘rights-holder engagement’ or ‘community partner engagement’ with Indigenous groups). I always like to emphasize, though, that it may be more appropriate that an Indigenous person be the one undertaking Indigenous Relations. So, if that’s what you’re after, I suggest maybe checking out pipikwan pêhtâkwan for that specific work.


I’d be happy to make an introduction if you’re interested! Feel free to connect with me at ben@catalystcommunications.ca



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