International Women’s Month was a reminder to celebrate women of the past and present, and to be conscious of the foundations we are setting for the future. We sat down with Highwire’s Carol Carrubba, Christine Elswick, and Miya Shitama for insight on what it means to be a woman leader.
Balance is a key component of Highwire’s culture. The theme of IWD this year was #balanceforbetter. With the term holding a variety of forms and meanings, how do you define balance?
Carol Carrubba, Principal and Co-Founder: I wish someone had told me earlier in my career that balance is personal — both a personal experience and a personal priority. In a leadership role, it can feel like your responsibility to create balance for others. Instead, it is your responsibility to create an environment for others to create their own balance. I encourage my teams and the agency to find what they need for personal balance and ask for it. As a company, we’ve engaged with programs that aim to facilitate this with Work From Home Fridays, Summer Fridays and other wellness benefits.
Christine Elswick, SVP and Head of Security: The dichotomy of a working mother can be tricky. The most important thing I can do to be an asset to my colleagues and family is to have good self-care. Finding balance can be challenging in the high-demanding tech world we live in, and it takes planning – but it is critically important and it pays off! I carve out time in the early morning hours when all is quiet to work out or spend time on projects that inspire me. Balance should be celebrated and people should feel empowered to do what it takes to find their own sense of balance.
Beyond balance, which values hold significance to you?
Miya Shitama, Account Manager: Dignity stands out to me. In any industry, there are a variety of professional levels, each offering a different purpose. At the more junior levels, work can feel unrewarding and it is easy to lose sight of its purpose – its dignity. I try to respect every part of my team, including myself, so that I can maintain dignity on all levels. To do so, I think of dignity as a barometer of a good relationship, serving as a measure of health and prosperity within our teams and clients.
Christine: Commitment is a major value for me. I believe that the key to excelling at anything in life is through various expressions of commitment: hone your craft, be open to ongoing feedback, and learn along the way. Success will follow. Commitment is also tremendously important when building and leading teams because it establishes trust. If commitment is placed as the foundation, then trust serves as the building material. I always tell my teams that no matter how things go, dedicate yourself to making it work, and if you fail, I’ll be there to back you up.
Emily Borders, Principal and Co-Founder, has said, “You can do anything. But you can’t do everything.” What and how do you prioritize?
Carol: The work day and its structure can be seen as a burden or as an opportunity. As my family grew, I woke up earlier, squeezing hours in to balance my family and my work – two things that bring me joy. I broke apart the 9-to-5, desk-bound work week and split it apart, creating pockets of free time for lunch with a friend, yoga, or making it home for dinner. I learned to fit work in around life, not vice versa.
Miya: I think prioritization is an ongoing and fluctuating process. I had an Aha! moment a few years back, amidst what seemed to be a never-ending workload. I realized that being successful isn’t about checking everything off. Instead, it’s about being able to distill and figure out what is most important, move everything else and communicate deadlines along the way.
PR is often a woman-dominated industry, while tech is a notably male-dominated industry. How then does your role at Highwire, a Tech PR agency, transcend, challenge, or motivate these generalizations?
Carol: When I started, PR and tech were male-dominated. But the PR industry filled with women, because our brains are trained in the art of empathy, emotion and strategy. The way a female brain works is valuable. It is quantum and multifaceted. I am hopeful and excited for women to continue to be rewarded for showing off their strengths. That’s the cornerstone of PR – it doesn’t matter how great the technology is if you can’t talk about it.
Christine: As head of Highwire’s security practice, with almost every executive being male, I am no longer phased by the gender discrepancy. Instead, I’m empowered. I sought out Highwire because it is an example of strong female leaders breaking through in this industry. I continue to seek out female leaders, both in Highwire and in clients.
Highwire prides itself on its many forms of leadership. The varying expressions of this compliment the diverse industry, empowering insights and encouraging confidence in diversity. Throughout the variety of insight, one common theme arose: confidence. Each leader touched on the power of believing in yourself, your team and your clients. With confidence as the fuel – and womanhood as the fire – the future of tech PR shines brightly for Highwire.