About Barri Rafferty

Based in New York, Barri is CEO of North America for Ketchum, where she leads Ketchum’s nine offices in North America, as well as Ketchum Digital and Ketchum Sports and Entertainment (KSE). In addition, she oversees the complementary businesses, Access Communications and Harrison & Shriftman. Barri brings more than 20 years of public relations experience leading integrated communications, branding, and corporate reputation campaigns for some of the world’s most recognized brands. Outside of Ketchum, she participates in a number of groups including the sustainability taskforce for the World Economic Forum and is a member of Arthur W. Page Society Page Up program. Rafferty sits on the board of StepUp, an organization with the mission of empowering girls from under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound, and career focused and she is also a member of the governing body of OmniWomen, Omnicom’s Leading Women’s Network, for which she holds quarterly panel discussions featuring prominent women. Barri is a graduate of Boston University (M.A) and Tulane University and enjoys watching soccer, volleyball, and dance - especially when her son and daughter are involved! Follow her @barrirafferty.

Author Archive | Barri Rafferty

A Conversation with Men About Gender Disparity

This week, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the United Nations on a topic that’s very important to me: conversations with men about helping women reach leadership positions. The event was hosted at the United Nations (UN) by IMPACT Leadership 21, an organization committed to transforming women’s global leadership at the highest level of influence.

Joining me in the lively discussion was a panel of distinguished men and women – all of whom share the vision of a world that sees gender equality as a given, and who also share the belief that it requires the participation of both sexes.

The panelists included: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund; Michael Drexel, Senior Director, Head of Investors Industries, World Economic Forum; Vincent Molinari, CEO Gate Global Impact; and Douglas Ellenoff, Partner at Ellenoff, Grossmen & Scholle LLP.

The conversation began and evolved around the concept of how governments, companies, and individual leaders can be the figures to shatter the glass ceiling and pave a better path for gender equality. As Vincent Molinari put it, “The channels need to be created and trails need to be blazed.”

What follows are four key learnings, and the potential solutions offered by the panelists, in an effort to evolve our understanding of gender disparity.

1. Gender equality is improving, but there’s still more progress to be made.
“Gender equality isn’t as bad as it used to be 50-70 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go,” Michael Drexler said. The number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 has reached a record-high—but that’s only 24 out of the 500 CEOs. Osotimehin agreed, and said, “We must make encourage men to embrace gender equality principles. If the tone isn’t set at the top, then people will find a way around it.” Progress can only be made in this area if we work together. It will take the combined efforts of women and men to end gender inequality.

2. Men need to have this conversation with other men.
“I’m looking into the room here and where are the men?” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said. “We’re talking to ourselves now. We need men to sit here so we can have a proper conversation. I want to tell my daughters that they’re equal to men and they’re not inferior to anyone. In order to achieve that, men need to shed the fear of having this conversation and embrace the possibilities.” This brought up an interesting thought: Should we approach men or should men approach us with this conversation?

3. Don’t fight the tribe, be a part of it.
“Instead of clashing with the ‘boys club’ stereotype, let’s make it a goal to become a valuable member of the organization. Everyone has something different to offer and they need to demonstrate it, regardless of gender,” Drexler stated. You have to think about how you’ll get to the top and if people are there to support you. If not, focus on a company that will, and don’t overlook entrepreneurship. “Talented women are entrepreneurs now and they’re planting the seeds for others,” Ellenoff said. He continued, “…women are raising money for other women entrepreneurs and are creating an environment where we don’t have to keep going back to the ‘boys clubs’ around the world.” Once you’ve become a cultural leader, you’re establishing a new path for other women to follow and succeed.

During the session, Michael Drexler said, “Diversity in every organization is huge and makes it more successful.” I agree, and gender equality is a key part of the diversity mix. In fact, a recent study found that the companies with the best financial performance are those with greater numbers of women in leadership. It has been predicted, judging from the historic rate, that it will take 50 years for gender equality in government, and 81 years for gender equality in the economy. That is an unacceptable rate of change. It is the responsibility of every man and woman to shift the paradigm. Some argue that policies and quotas are the only way to bring about change. I would say that while policies and quotas can play a role, until attitudes have shifted there will not be true progress.

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Expect Big Changes in PR: 2015 and Beyond

As Seen in… The Access Point

Content remains king! That’s just one of the key takeaways Access learned from a recent 1:1 with Ketchum CEO Barri Rafferty. Barri visited both the Access SF and NY offices in January to share what’s next for Ketchum North America, and the PR industry as a whole. In addition to content, Barri was candid about our field, and where and how our services will evolve in the months and years ahead.

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How to Achieve Success with Less Stress (Video)

How to Achieve Success with Less Stress (Video)

As Seen In PRWeek…

At this time of year, tips for managing our energy and reducing stress are always handy. With that spirit in mind, I recently had the pleasure of moderating a panel in Chicago comprised of some remarkable female leaders during Omnicom’s Omniwomen event.

The panel, “Intentional Living: Being more Proactive Under Stress,” featured Sharon Melnick, author of “Success Under Stress,” and fellow panelists: Morgan Flatley, CMO, Gatorade and Propel, Robin Shapiro, president and CCO, CAHG, and Tonise Paul, president and CEO, Energy BBDO. Janet Riccio, EVP Omnicom Group and leader of Omniwomen, introduced the panel.

The group gave many wonderful tips, relevant to everyone, but three insights I personally took away were…

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The Compelling Link Between Women, Communications and Leadership

“It’s better to be trusted than liked,” is a leadership mantra that I live by every day. Throughout my twenty-year career at Ketchum, I have worked hard to focus on modeling the expectations I have of others and inspiring team members to deliver “break through” results. Demonstrating my trust in others and empowering them to do their jobs has led to better team performance – creating a culture that supports this philosophy across Ketchum is what I aim to do.

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I Am Woman, Hear Me Board

Is your name William, Robert or James? According to Gerri Elliot (Director, Whirlpool, Bed Bath & Beyond, Charlotte Russe) men with these three names hold more board positions in total than all women combined, but they were not invited to the Fortune Most Powerful Women’s Conference.

When you put 400 powerful women in the same place for two days, what happens? I labeled it the Triple “H” Threat – honesty, hugs and humanity. The sharing of best practices and lessons learned in business were honest and overt; women supported one another professionally and had conversations that blended easily from how I manage in the office to how I manage life at home.

Relationships born in one day ended with hugs at the elevator and the promise of paths crossing again.

I observed many women who had both confidence and swagger. Women confident enough to admit the pace of business change is challenging in one breath, and in the next show genuine concern for women’s rights worldwide.

Here are four key takeaways from the conference…

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Judging Our Leaders Should Be Unbiased

As I was preparing to head to Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Conference, I happened to read Maureen Dowd’s column entitled, “Too Many Secrets, Not Enough Service.” It reminded me that, as businesswomen, we have made progress on one hand and, on the other, we are still moving slowly.

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The Magic Bean To Integrated Marketing

Today clients are in search of a magic bean they can plant to ensure their agencies work seamlessly to create results-driven, award-winning integrated programs. If only it was that easy. The question I seem to be asked most frequently lately is, “Who do you see that does integrated marketing well and what can we learn from them?”

I see many brands that do it well with different structures. It’s not the model that makes it work – it’s the talent. Team leaders on the agency side must have an appreciation for diverse disciplines, and the client must insist multiple disciplines present together. Those are the two most common threads to success.

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6 Steps Corporate America Must Take To Achieve Gender Parity

As seen in Forbes…

Thousands of articles, research papers, leaders, and experts have attempted to tackle the issue of corporate America’s serious lack of equal or near-equal representation of women at senior leadership levels. Yet effective solutions remain untapped for many thousands of organizations here in the U.S.

I remember sitting on the phone earlier this year with three HR heads (each in a different country) of a large, multinational information services organization, as they were exploring hiring me to offer leadership training to their female workforce.  Before we went any further, I asked, “Where in the pipeline are your emerging female leaders falling out, and why is it happening?” and there was dead silence on the phone.

No one, even at these top levels, knew the answer, and the organization had no plans to find out.  Discouraging to say the least. Leadership coaches and trainers like myself know that throwing a leadership training program “over the fence” to women isn’t going to move any needle if the organization isn’t seriously and continuously engaged in and committed to business and HR strategies that support more women to leadership.

There are certainly no simple answers or quick fixes for this challenge. It is complex and multi-faceted, touching on cultural, neurobiological, societal and gender role factors.  Easy or not, we need to continue our search for manageable, measurable and executable approaches that will open the pathway for equal representation of women at the top of both political and business affairs in our country (and world).

To explore this issue from a fresh perspective, I was excited to catch up with Ms. Barri Rafferty, North American CEO of Ketchum Inc. – one of the largest and most geographically diverse PR agencies in the world.  A member of the sustainability taskforce of the World Economic Forum, Barri is the first female North American CEO in Ketchum’s 90-year history, and one of the highest ranking female executives within the holding company Omnicom (NYSC: OMC), which netted revenues upwards of $14.6 billion in 2013. In her current role, Barri leads Ketchum’s nine offices in North America as well as Ketchum Digital and Ketchum Sports and Entertainment.

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Women and the Future of Global Leadership

Women and the Future of Global Leadership

I had the privilege of participating in a panel at the United Nations last week to talk about “Women and the Future of Global Leadership.” The event was hosted by IMPACT Leadership 21, a movement committed to transforming women’s global leadership at the highest level of influence in the 21st century.

Joining me in the discussion were a distinguished group of ladies, including Denise Evans, VP, Market Development of IBM Corporation; Michaela Walsh, Founder of Women’s World Banking and author of Founding a Movement; Liz Lyman, Managing Director of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Michelle Patterson, President and CEO of Women Network/California Women’s Conference.

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Are You a Spouse? No, I’m a CEO

Are you a spouse? (Click to tweet)

Yes, I was asked that question more than once during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. In fact, the number of female spouses attending the event makes the 15 percent number of official female attendees seem much larger than it is. (Click to tweet)

While bias still exists, being there as a female CEO does allow you to participate and shape the agenda — an experience I cherish.

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