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A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications

A. Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506-1501

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Closing the leadership gender gap in strategic communication starts with investing in the new generation of workers

Assistant professors LaGree and Olsen share research vision with industry leaders and alumni

Recognizing the need for female representation in leadership roles in advertising and public relations, Danielle LaGree, Ph.D., and Katie Olsen, Ph.D., assistant professors of strategic communication in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication, launched a research program aimed to support and inspire early-career professionals to pursue leadership roles. 

LaGree and Olsen are collecting data from in-depth interviews with early-career women in advertising and public relations; the data will inform a nationwide survey. Their goal is to offer organizational leaders insights and strategic recommendations to create a culture that encourages the professional development and creativity of young professionals, specifically members of Generation Z.

The focus on perspectives from early-career professionals was a strategic decision. “Current research in this area is not focused on those who are one to five years into their careers,” Olsen said. “Yet, research also tells us that the first one to five years of full-time employment are crucial for establishing a career trajectory aimed to secure a leadership position in the future. We’re eager to address that gap.” 

“While we approach this topic from an academic perspective,” LaGree said, “we’re also being cognizant of industry’s need for practical data and insights. We’re leveraging our relationships with industry and professional associations and are learning a lot from our conversations with them.”

LaGree and Olsen are proactive about bridging the gap between academe and industry. They spearheaded a conversation, “Creating an engaged culture to secure your talent pipeline” for the Kansas City International Association of Business Communicators (KC IABC) master class. They also coordinated and led a panel for the 2020 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) Conference focused on how educators and leaders can instill confidence and empower young women in the profession. K-State alumna Danielle Calhoun, a Vice President focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Weber Shandwick, was tapped to serve on the panel.

“Connecting with young professionals and showing them the path to becoming a senior leader is so important,” Calhoun said. “It’s not a clear-cut path from student to junior talent, and then on from there into leadership roles. With a mix of academic research and career mentors, we can all work together to provide support and open more doors.”

To learn more about LaGree and Olsen’s research, contact danilagree@ksu.edu or olsenk@ksu.edu.