Farzana Baduel: "Setting up your own business allows you to create the world you wish to live in"
Curzon PR founder and managing director Farzana Baduel was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards in the UK earlier this year. Here she talks about the challenge of starting an international business, diversity and gender equality.
What's your vision for your life and business?
My vision is to balance the needs of work, family and personal development. This balance will form the foundation of my vision for Curzon PR, which is to set up offices in major cities around the world to deliver a global solution to our clients’ increasingly international needs.
Who or what inspires you?
My maternal grandfather inspires me. He was a politician and a businessman who led an incredibly varied life. From being a military advisor, to the Shah of Iran, to staging military coups to topple regimes, to running as a politician in newly-formed Pakistan and setting up a trade platform between the sub-continent and the Middle East – the list is endless. He was an adventurer.
What's the story of Curzon PR?
Curzon PR was formed in 2009 after my role as Vice Chair for Business Relations for the Conservative Party. From the outset I had a global outlook, attracting international clients which helped secure international contracts for the new offices set up in New York, Dubai and the soon-to-be launched Delhi office.
What's the best and worst thing about running your own public relations business?
The best thing about running your own agency or indeed any business, is the ability to create new paths. Be it in services, processes, or human resources policies, you have the option to follow existing paths, as well as the freedom to experiment and grow.
The worst thing is not being able to truly switch off on holidays or weekends. With an office in Dubai, my Sundays are now workdays. I am left with Saturdays off but even those are usually interrupted too.
Should public relations be representative of the communities that it purports to represent?
Yes it should, as you need to understand the nuances of communications to different target groups. You can achieve that ability by having a diverse team - it makes professional and business sense. Our team come from a variety of backgrounds including Sudanese, Argentinian, Irish, Indian and British.
How can we ensure that there is greater diversity among public relations practitioners?
Public relations leaders need to be conscious of diversity and actively participate in an audit. This will ensure that diversity flourishes not just in entry-level positions, but crucially at senior levels. It is at senior levels where the greatest impact of a lack of diversity is evident.
There's a gender pay gap of as much as 20% in public relations. How can we tackle this?
Gender pay gaps should be addressed by benchmarking salaries and positions across the sector to ensure that staff, of any gender, are paid fairly.
Public relations has a 80/20 entry gender split in favour of women. In senior roles this is reversed in favour of men. What can we do about this?
For a start, tax-free childcare would tackle the issue for working mothers, as well as flexible working hours. Establishing cultural norms where it is unacceptable to have a board lacking in diversity would also help to tackle the issue of gender imbalance in senior positions.
Is setting up your own business a solution to addressing gender and diversity issues head on?
Setting up your own business allows you to create the world you wish to live in. My business hires and promotes on basis of merit, and is a diverse team.
What I should have asked you but haven't? And what would your answer have been?
You should have asked me what I love about public relations.
I love creating, building and protecting reputations. The magical phase when it moves from 'push' to 'pull' and opportunities start flowing in for our clients is something which excites and drives me.