Fatou Barry | The Innovator 25 North America 2021

Fatou Barry

Founder at PR Girl Manifesto

Co-Founder, Hold The PRess

Philadelphia, PA

Hometown: Conakry, Guinea

“I’d like to see future office models prioritize catering to everyone’s different working styles and needs."

Fatou Barry has done an astonishing amount of work towards diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry. She founded  an inclusive digital community and nonprofit organization, The PR Girl Manifesto, as well as being co-founder of the PR advocacy collective Hold The PRress. The former has more than 40,000 engaged community members who find support in sharing experiences of ageism, sexism, and racism in the industry.  Meanwhile, Hold the PRess, recently announced its Show Your Receipts Campaign. One year after agencies committed to change and to increasing representation and workplace culture for Black/PoC employees, Hold The PRess is asking companies for proof.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Currently, I am most proud of the PR Girl Manifesto’s transition into a nonprofit organization. For the last seven years, we’ve focused on building an engaged community that now includes over 40,000 professionals. Finally incorporating the organization and introducing programs such as our mentorship matching and pre-service fellowship has been years in the making. It’s been fulfilling to be able to launch these programs and continue our work in cultivating diverse communications professionals.

We're at a pivotal moment on the future of the office and how we work. How would like to see 'office/work culture' evolve?
I’d love to see continued flexibility in how we think about what a productive work environment entails. If nothing else, the last year has shown us that there are different ways for us to engage with each other outside of the traditional work structure. I’d like to see future office models prioritize catering to everyone’s different working styles and needs, and hopefully see more of a hybrid approach being taken to remote and in-office work.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity?
We need to continue the commitment to accountability and transparency around the lack of diversity and inclusion within the PR spaces we occupy. We can not change what we are not acknowledging or tracking. For us to move forward, we have to continue to have the hard conversations and be honest with ourselves and each other about where we’re coming up short. Additionally, fostering diversity and inclusion has to be in everyone’s bottom line. It has to be a make or break metric for organizations, companies, brands, etc. in the same way they measure other KPI’s.

What makes you most excited or proud to be part of the PR industry? 
I get so excited at the possibility and creativity that exists within the PR industry. I believe we’re in an interesting time where we’re watching what it means to work in PR / be a PR practitioner change in great ways. The industry is opening itself up to more innovation and creativity which is allowing for more people with non-traditional PR backgrounds to help shape what the next iteration of the PR industry looks like.

What are your fears/concerns for our industry? 
We have real issues surrounding DEI and so much work that needs to be done to ensure equity and equality for everyone who works within the industry. Numerous statistics show us the harsh reality that the makeup of the PR industry doesn’t properly reflect the makeup of the world. Our industry specializes in being able to communicate to diverse demographics, so what does it say about us when the professionals responsible for communicating to its constituents don’t reflect the diversity of said constituents on all levels: gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, language, etc.?

What inspires you? This could be a person, place, activity, etc.
I’m inspired by my culture. As I continue to grow in age and (hopefully) wisdom, I am reminded of the beauty of my cultural background as a Guinean immigrant who is at the intersection of so many different identities. It continuously influences my experiences which influences my perspective and how I choose to show up in life, in work, and in community.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
I think a lot about re-imagining these days. What does the future look like? How can we/I do this differently? What needs to change?

What is your idea of happiness?
For me, happiness these days is time spent in laughter and connection with those close to me and those with whom I am fortunate enough to cross paths. The last year of life has really pushed me to seek happiness in the small things that often seem mundane because they’re not moments that are always guaranteed.