Nicole Guillot, president and CEO of CNW, has been recognized as an honouree of PR News' Top Women in PR Awards for a career spent furthering public relations and communications with products and services inherent to the profession, and with her own best-in-class examples of integrated PR and marketing.
We spoke with Nicole about being a business leader, the obstacles she has faced along the way and what advice she’d offer young women starting their careers.
Beyond the Wire: What does it mean to you to be a senior leader in an industry dominated by women, but with so few at the top?
Nicole Guillot: All companies can benefit from the knowledge and expertise that women can bring to senior roles in PR and in every other industry as well.
I am thrilled to be in a leadership position, especially during a time where the PR industry is facing pivotal changes in how we create and share content. It’s fascinating and it’s challenging. Leadership teams across all sectors need to draw their expertise from a diverse set of sources to ensure the greatest success. It seems so obvious and simple – I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation in 2016, but we are.
BTW: As a woman in a leadership role, what obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?
NG: I had to learn how to be heard. I think an inability to make oneself heard is an all-too-common issue experienced by women in business. As an example, early on in my career I can remember making a contribution to a discussion in a meeting that was completely ignored. Yet a moment later, when a male colleague made the identical point, the room suddenly became engaged on the idea.
As women, we might be inclined to just roll our eyes and let it go, but it’s important not to. I never miss an opportunity to offer my colleagues a coaching moment if I see this kind of thing happen in a meeting. Women leaders need to help break down the cultural barriers that prevent other women from being successful.
BTW: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to young women beginning their career in PR, or in general?
NG: I would love to see more young women stretch themselves, reaching beyond their comfort level when looking at new roles or growth opportunities. Men are far more inclined than women to go for jobs that interest them despite not having every qualification listed on the job spec.
Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, and take the risk when opportunities present themselves. I have coached many women to just go for it -- and the outcome is often better than expected from both a learning and career perspective.
BTW: Gender parity has been a hot topic in Canadian media of late. What should companies be doing to ensure more diversity at the leadership level?
NG: I believe that the most qualified person should always get the role, however in many situations, women have not been provided with growth opportunities to gain appropriate experience for upward mobility. I am optimistic that the conversations happening today will lead more organizations to reflect on entrenched practices and modify their cultures all the way down to entry level hiring. Ultimately this will create greater diversity on the leadership bench.
BTW: What are the rules you try to live by every day?
NG: You don’t have to be a business leader to benefit from these three rules:
Stop worrying. You can’t control everything in life, but you can control the way you think and act. Just be the best, most authentic leader you can be.
Collaborate. Work together to create an environment where winning is inevitable. Everyone loves success!
Continue to grow. You are never too senior to ask questions. Make it a point to learn something new every day.