• Lauren Whitfield

Marilyn Laurie: Fearless Femininity Emerges into the PR World

How One Woman Transformed a Male-Dominated Workplace

By: Lauren Whitfield

From an early age, I have always considered myself a feminist. I strive to embrace my feminine nature and assert my opinions where I see fit without second-guessing myself. However, this was once extremely frowned upon in society. If it weren’t for the trailblazing women that stood up against sexism like Marilyn Laurie did, women would still be silenced in today’s society.

Activists hold signs at recent Earth Day march
Activists hold signs at recent Earth Day march

From stay-at-home mom to Co-founder

Marilyn Laurie began her career in PR in 1969 at the age of 30. Laurie, who was once solely a stay-at-home mom was now helping organize the first-ever Earth Day celebration and soon became responsible for the campaign communications. With her persistence, Laurie was able to secure 5th Avenue in Manhattan for the first Earth Day celebration on April 22 in 1970, which has now been celebrated every year since. She is now recognized as one of the co-founders of Earth Day.

Don’t Let the Man Get You Down

After Laurie’s work on the Earth Day celebration, she found herself freelancing for the New York Times. While writing for the New York Times, her hard work was recognized by an AT&T executive who offered her a job as an environmentalist for the company. Laurie created several environmental programs that are still in place at the company today. Even though Laurie’s drive and expertise allowed her to quickly rise in the company, she was still met with discrimination due to her being a woman. Laurie never let these obstacles get in her way, and oftentimes worked her way into meetings even though she wasn’t acknowledged in them. As she progressed in her career at AT&T, Laurie became the first woman to become a chief communications officer for a fortune 500 company.

A Woman in Power

Marilyn Laurie photographed at her desk
Laurie photographed at her desk

Laurie believed that through her role in PR, she was able to build a connection between the world and the company.

“Listen deeply to all kinds of audiences — through all kinds of media — so you bring a convincing, uniquely ‘outside’ perspective to the table. A broad understanding of public opinion and trends will bring authority to your advice,” Laurie once advised her staff.

This quote offers great incite as to how exactly a PR person should engage in their role. Being able to understand each and every one of a company’s audiences is crucial to building better relationships.

Marilyn Laurie is a true PR feminine icon and earned the right to be called the mother of PR. Her persistence and hard work allowed her to tear down societal gender norms and paved the way for women like myself to pursue a career in PR. The accomplishments that she achieved in a male-dominated world and her courage in the field are truly inspiring.

About the Author

Lauren Whitfield is an aspiring public relations professional in the DFW area. Whitfield is pursuing a degree in journalism with a concentration in PR at the University of North Texas and is planning on graduating in December 2022.