H+K Celebrates International Women’s Day 2020: An Equal World Is an Enabled World

H+K is proud to once again celebrate the women that make our agency great. We’ve highlighted a few below, those in our C-Suite as well as others doing commendable work for women and equality across our network, but this is only a sample of the exceptional women we have at H+K.


Kate Augustine 
Global Chief Talent + HR Officer
Chicago, US

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you?
Fragmentation. In a world where anyone can be a YouTube star, and notoriety can outweigh knowledge and experience, it would seem that there are more opportunities for previously disenfranchised groups to make their mark. For every voice we hear and name we know, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others that aren’t trending or disrupting. Women must support and elevate each other if we’re going to catch the collective opportunities.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self, as you were starting out your career? 

Oh, the places you will go. Life is not linear, or often logical, but with grit, wit, smarts, determination, and kindness, you will be able to carve out your own path. Believe what others see in you, sometimes pushing yourself into industries and roles that provide opportunities to develop new skills and experiences. Find a mentor and hang on to them. Oh, and ask for help when you need it. 

HS Chung 
Lead, Asia Cluster | President + CEO, South Korea | Managing Director, Singapore
Seoul, South Korea

How can we best celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day?

I will celebrate with all of my staff by having them recognize what this means for each and every day of work.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you?

I do not think there will be a major challenge. Regardless of gender, becoming a leader is challenging. It’s about training yourself to continuously improve on leadership skills and, most importantly, being a human being that inspires your people. At the core of every leader’s challenge, this will continue to be the most important aspect for everyone and we, women in leadership, are no different.

Are there women who have inspired you during your career and why?

My mother inspired me during my career. Interestingly she’s been a housewife for all her life, raising four children and supporting a husband who had big ambitions to succeed in his career. I have seen that leadership is more than those who stand out and pursue external success only. It is also about endurance and helping others around you succeed. When I founded my own company 20 years ago, which later became H+K, it was my mother who brought all her college friends (women) together and gave a speech over lunch on how we women should support our younger female entrepreneurs. At that lunch, she raised $50,000 in loans for me to use when finding office space! This was a major inspiration for me to successfully grow my business, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary in January 2020! 

What do you wish you could tell your younger self, as you were starting out your career?

Just go for it and do what you think is right. 

Alison Eyles-Owen
Global Chief Client Officer
London, UK

How can we best celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day? 

Celebrate IWD by recognizing the excellent talent and potential around you. Be very intentional about extending your “leadership ladder,” giving other women the chance to “step-up” by providing new learning opportunities, exposure to management and/or mentoring to the next generation of leaders. Create unexpected opportunities and new experiences that can help build an individual’s expertise and confidence, allowing them the potential to shine more brightly so they become (more) visible within an organization and, importantly, have the chance to demonstrate their unique value. 

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you? 

Women are still significantly lagging their male counterparts when it comes to representation at the most senior levels of business. Of the companies that make up the Fortune 500, only 33 have female CEO’s and, while this is an increase from previous years (24 women), it is a pitifully small amount. This inequality also does nothing to address the gender pay gap where women earn just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes with some analysts projecting this will take over 200 years to rectify – an issue for many generations of talented women, not just the next one! 

Are there women who have inspired you during your career and why? 

I have been fortunate enough to work with some very talented and inspiring women, many of whom are within the ranks of WPP and our sister agencies, but outside work, too. Those that are kind, passionate and generous with their time, knowledge and interest, are truly great gifts and valued as much as those that taught me tenacity, resilience, and determination. Understanding your own values and beliefs and being true to yourself are incredibly precious discoveries, so thanks to Charlotte Beers, Lynn Mueller, Tamara Ingram, Ashley Bannister and a long list of other unsung heroes, you rock! 

Melanie Faithfull Kent
CEO, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

How can we best celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day?

We celebrate with every boost we give to each other every day. We don’t need a special day or some dumb slogan. We should celebrate the great women in our lives with every “ignore them,” and “well done,” and “I knew you could do it…”  and every “screw you!” to the people that would stand in their way. 

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you?

The challenges they will face are sadly the same as I faced. I already see it happening and I already tell them this: don’t be struck dumb by those who tell you that you need more gravitas, that you need to step aside while the serious talk happens. You know your stuff. Find your own voice, state your case, don’t worry that you’re not like them because we love you just the way you are. 

Are there women who have inspired you during your career and why?

There are many women and many men. Yes, there are men in the sisterhood, too; one was my ex-boss (the famous Dave Robinson, after whom we named the scholarship). He put me in charge of H+K’s biggest Middle East office when I had a six-month-old baby and didn’t stop for one minute to consider that might be a problem or a reason to hesitate.   

What do you wish you could tell your younger self, as you were starting out your career?

Never listen to those who say, “you need more grey hair.” Grey hair sucks and will come soon enough.   

Sheila Wisniewski
President + CEO, Canada
Toronto, Canada

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you?

There’s a famous Hewlett Packard internal study that showed men apply for a job even if they only met 60% of the criteria/qualifications, but women only apply if they met 100% of them.  There is some debate about whether this is about confidence or conforming to perceived rules, but, whatever the reason, I hope the next generation of women gets past the idea that they can’t put themselves forward until they’ve first completed some hypothetical checklist. Apply today! 

What do you wish you could tell your younger self, as you were starting out your career?

Early in my career I was so worried about striking the perfect work/life balance that I would almost weigh every decision on an imaginary scale – ignoring my natural sense of equilibrium.  If I could go back, I’d tell myself not to worry so much – do what you want, do what makes you happy, do what you find rewarding, and make adjustments as you go along.  There is no such thing as the perfect balance, but you will find the right balance for you at every stage of your career. 

Vikki Willimott
Global Head of Content + Publishing
New York, US

How can we best celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day?

Spend some time on Twitter looking at the all the amazing stories of women shared under the hashtag IWC2020 and this year’s hashtag EachforEqual. Maybe even contribute one of your own.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the talented generation of women who follow you?

The pressure of the multi-faceted human being. My advice? It’s amazing if you have seventy hobbies and a side hustle, but it’s not a pre-requisite. You can just do one thing and do it exceptionally. That truly is enough.

Are there women who have inspired you during your career and why?

I was lucky enough to be mentored by the late Tracy Robbins, an incredible woman who gave me some of the best advice of my career. I’ve written it up here so I can share it with as many people possible.

More H+K Women Leaders

Nadia Andrade
Account Director
São Paulo, Brazil

Our actions are often correlated to the future we see as possible. So, working to help women see a better future as possible, with continuous professional development and in balance with the other pillars of life, should be everyone’s attitude. The challenge is great. Deloitte research indicates that only 15% of the seats on company boards around the world are held by women, for example. Reducing this and other gaps involves the development of human capital and a great collective effort with the public and private sectors. This is the scenario in which we can collaborate. 

April Andrews
Vice President
New York, NY 

I have always believed that it is crucial for young women of color to have role models who look like themselves, so that they know that there are no limits to whatever they aspire to achieve. This is especially important to me as I raise my teenage daughter.

Through H+K’s client work with P&G on their gender equality initiative, The Queen Collective, I’ve had a front row seat to witness this in action. Through P&G’s ongoing partnership with Queen Latifah and Tribeca Studios, diverse women storytellers have the once in a lifetime opportunity to have their projects, financed, produced, and distributed. I consider it more than an honor and privilege in my role at H+K, to be able to support our client in sharing their stories with the world.

Jaemi Bowers
Account Manager
H+K San Francisco, US

I am fortunate to have been mentored by brilliant women in the gaming industry who have believed in me, opened doors for me and encouraged me to relentlessly pursue my passion. Because of this, I feel immense responsibility to turn their investment in me into opportunities that inspire, empower and celebrate other women.

Lucy D’Abo
Client Services Director
Dubai, UAE

Lucy is at the forefront of driving gender equality within our industry. In 2019, she announced the launch of the Middle East Branch of Global Women in PR (GWPR), which aims to connect and attract women in leadership within the communications industry across the region, as they strive for excellence and a fair gender balance. Lucy is the Chair of GWPR. With three areas identified to tackle urgent key issues around the role of women in the industry, introducing mentoring and sponsorship of young talent, stressing the importance of “returnships” – i.e. women returning to work after maternity leave – and flexible working hours for women, Lucy is rightly so regarded as a stalwart of our industry, whose passion and commitment to create real change for women in public relations speaks for itself. 

Verity Dephoff
Director, Financial + Professional Services
London, UK

Everyone has a voice, some people just need a little more encouragement and support to share it. Every day I work with some incredible people: great colleagues, clients and a charity advisory board focused on putting an end to sexual harassment of women – many inspiring and fierce women among them. Alongside this, I try to give care and courage to people around me, at work and in life, so each of those people know they can do or be whatever they want. 

Adriana Diaz Covaleda
Senior Account Executive, Technology
Madrid, Spain

Five years ago, she created a group of women (some clients, some prospects) called somosmujerestech (translated as wearewomenintech). This group has grown from a bunch of friends to a think tank empowering other women to succeed in the tech industry, choose STEM careers and behave as a force for change of gender equality and women empowerment in that field. Adriana is not only a valued member of the group, but the real mind and heart behind the it and all of its success. 

Group members include Fujitsu, Lenovo, Netapp, Panda, Amazon, Huawei, Dolby, Experian, Medtronic, Incibe (state-owned cybersecurity agency in Spain). Over the last few years, it has established a track record of great events and insightful publications. 

Rachel Gorgol
Account Executive
Dallas, US

Alongside her stellar H+K work, she serves on the board of the Dallas Cotillion Club, a nonprofit, young women’s professional organization. It partners with Genesis Women’s Shelter, a safe place for beaten and battered women and their children during the most challenging time in their lives, as its beneficiary to help support all women in their community. It fundraises through events, sponsorships and an annual gala and silent auction, while also raising awareness around the issue of domestic violence. 

Tanya Joseph
Senior Consultant
London, UK

I am a proud feminist, raised by feminist parents. I strive in everything I do, personally and professionally, to bring about gender equality, whether that has been serving as vice-chair of the Fawcett Society, the longest-established gender campaigning organization, developing the This Girl Can campaign to get more women and girls active, writing, speaking and campaigning on gender and other D&I topics or trying to demonstrate to my step-daughter and the other young people in my life (girls and boys) that your gender should not determine your future. 

Karolina Kanar-Kossobudzka
Warsaw, Poland

Even the smallest step causes a change in the future. That is why I default to female language forms in my native language. 

Melina Kokkinos
Assistant Consultant
Ottawa, Canada

Melina volunteers with a philanthropic organization called the Maids of Athena (MOA), an international organization that empowers young women to give back to their community and develop leadership skills. There are chapters all over Canada, the U.S. and Greece. 

Angelica Lopez
Vice President, Corporate + IT Comms
Mexico City, Mexico

I believe that a good way to guarantee equality and diversity at work is to create an environment where women believe in their voice and CAN use it. Outside the office it is important that, as women, we look for ways to influence public debate, using that voice and continuing to fight for women’s rights. Currently, I am part of a movement that seeks to reveal the violence that Mexican women suffer every day through symbolic actions that generate conversation towards a solution. 

Sarah Mason
Associate Director, Issues and Crisis
London, UK

I am lucky to have been supported by some inspiring and talented women throughout my career, and I have always strived to pay it forward through mentoring students and helping everyone on my teams find the best opportunities to shine.

A recent study by Kantar reveled that 46% of people in Brazil think brands need to feature more diverse women in their communications. The study also highlighted that people expect brands to treat women with respect, listen to them and allow them to express their opinions. For me, as a leader, it is crucial to encourage conversation, dialog, an exchange of experiences, discussion, and training. We view communication as an indispensable discipline in this process. 

Yara Nimer
Senior Account Executive
Dubai, UAE

An integral member of our Sports and Entertainment team, Yara represents a strong community of female role models from diverse communities around the world. Although reluctant to describe herself as an “influencer,” Yara has built a loyal and growing community of followers on her personal social media channels, with over eight thousand fans on Instagram. Sharing updates on her life as she successfully balances a thriving career with a growing family, Yara is a great example to young women across the Middle East who are navigating the challenges of building careers alongside their role as a homemaker, wife and mother.

Yara has modeled for fashion brands and is firmly establishing herself as a strong role-model for young muslim women. Whether through sharing her love of fashion and modest-dressing, her health and wellness goals, her experiences wearing a hijab and working in the corporate world, or her next important milestone as she welcomes her daughter into the world in two months’ time, Yara represents and speaks for the thousands of women who follow her. 

Danielle Palfery
Vancouver, Canada

Danielle dedicates much of her time to her board position at a contemporary art magazine that proactively seeks out and publishes underrepresented voices including women of color, indigenous women and LGBTQ+ women. 

Maria Jose “Majo” Pandullo
Managing Director
Buenos Aires, Argentina

I have worked in the PR industry for twenty-one years and, although there are quite a lot of women in senior management roles, it is still not enough. 

As the H+K leader for Argentina, I strive to empower women both inside and outside my office, by performing these practices: 

  • prioritizing work-life balance  
  • avoiding the pay gap  
  • building an inclusive workplace 
  • protecting my team from clients’ lack of respect  

Lina Paola Diaz Lopez
Bogotá, Columbia

Lina creates an open-minded atmosphere that challenges stereotypes. She encourages herself and other women to rotate roles in the business and openly discusses the women’s movement and its new challenges, engaging men in the discussion, too. Ultimately, she cares and empowers the women that surround her. 

  • Creating an open-minded atmosphere 
  • Challenging stereotypes
  • Encouraging myself and other women to rotate roles
  • Acknowledging the history behind the women’s movement and facing new challenges
  • Engaging men on the discussion
  • Caring and empowering other women around me

Lela Randall
Vice President
H+K Costa Mesa

Heading up an all-female gaming team in a male-dominated industry is inspiring. Each and every day we push ourselves beyond gender defined limits to deliver the best work in the business.

Selena Sheikh
Singapore, Singapore

Within Singapore’s PR world, bias does exist, but it is a sensitive and delicate subject – often too subtle for the region’s newcomers to recognize. When working with Asian and corporate clients, there is a hierarchy and protocol that is not mentioned but must be adhered to in order to succeed. It takes a seasoned and confident PR practitioner to excel, to not offend, to have a voice and show gravitas. Thankfully, our office has Selena, who excels in all areas, especially when dealing with a largely Asian C-Suite. 

Selena has a rich ethnic background which is very diverse by Singaporean standards. She is a multiracial Singaporean of Bengali and Chinese descent. Her maternal grandparents are Straits-born Chinese or Peranakan who came from Malacca, while the paternal side came from India. Because of her ethnicity, she has overcome barriers at each stage of her life, and she celebrates her uniqueness. 

Selena speaks five languages, including Mandarin which makes her truly indispensable in Asia and beyond. She can adapt her style with traditional Chinese clients (i.e. Huawei) as well as less formal Malay clients. She brings empathy and understanding to each situation. She has also worked in the Middle East, which introduced her to new cultures as a senior leader. 

As well as leading the Technology Practice, she donates her time to her community. This year, she has volunteered for ArtWalk which are tours in Little India for LASALLE College of the Arts. She has worked with them for three years prior to joining H+K. She also runs (and performs with) a Tahitian dance school in Singapore, ‘Ori Tahiti Singapore, where they teach dance as well as language and culture; she is also learning the Hawaiian Hula. Selena admits, that being a Polynesian cultural practitioner is tough, but the dance empowers women to be in touch with their femininity, while creating a community of likeminded women, leading to great conversations and story-sharing. 

Mariana Tuis
Executive Vice President
Mexico City, Mexico

I’m the team leader of the UN Women Mexico work, a partnership established in 2017. We work together to amplify different campaigns that raise awareness of gender equality, expose the sexual violence women suffer in our country and change the conversation around these topics. Working on UN Women campaigns has truly made me feel like I am part of something bigger and making a real impact in women’s lives. It is so important that we keep raising awareness because it’s all about the fight for equality and we still have a lot of work to do. 

Vicky Wong
General Manager
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

She is active in supporting local NGOs. She is currently working on a project with several other female colleagues and local NGOs to raise awareness about period poverty in Malaysia. 

Emma Wright
Associate Director
London, UK

I work in two incredible industries – gaming and sports. However, neither are known for their gender balance, and, over the last ten years, I have gotten very used to being the only woman in a room. As an experienced practitioner in these fields, I now consider it my duty to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to enter those rooms and have their voices heard. 

Azmin Zainal
Creative Strategist
Singapore, Singapore

Across the creative industry, men often dominate. Here at H+K Singapore, we have tried to address this issue by hiring Azmin, not because she is a woman, but because she has amazing skills. Azmin joined us just over a year ago to support our creative team. She is the only Malay Muslim woman on our team. Whilst the agency wishes to recruit more women from the Malay community, finding Malay Muslim women at a mid-level is challenging because of the expectations placed on women in her community. 

Azmin is a symbol to all Malay Muslims that anything is possible. There is a huge expectation for a woman like Azmin to live with their parents or be married by a certain age. Azmin has refused to fit the mould, instead breaking free to re-write the rules and live a life she is proud of. She lives independently (by herself and relishes it), furnishing her apartment to her style and fashion. This is also not the norm in her community. 

She is a beacon for many, many women who don’t want to have only one option in life.  Indeed, she thrives on the fact that she can represent Malay Muslim women and shed light on those who aren’t aware that women like her exist. She is a true mentor to women both within and outside of her community. 

Recently, Azmin was promoted to Creative Strategist due to her contribution to new wins in our office. However, she remains one of the few women (if not the only one) in this role across our region. She strives to balance both her work responsibilities and her personal duties as a Muslim. Not many people know this, but Azmin continues to fulfill her religious duties by praying during the working day. She also donates blood four times a year and is very active member of her community.