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“The question isn’t can women lead, but how do we get them there?”

I sat listening to Kelly Parisi– the spirited Communications Director of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In initiative– at the Washington Women in PR annual Woman of the Year Awards.

She asks herself the above question often and in many ways, the answers have guided the course of her life.

As a wife, self-proclaimed feminist, and mother of two small children, Kelly has always been passionate about women’s equality.

On Being a Feminist

“Someone recently asked me what my hobby is, and I had to laugh because this is my hobby,” says Kelly. “Even if I was an accountant I’d be advocating for women.”

“Growing up, I never knew you could get a job working in women’s issues. I never knew there were these professional organizations that advocated for women and girls and that I could work for one.”

“I’m so old that when I first started looking for jobs I used the newspaper. I’d go get The New York Times and one day there was an ad for a publicist for the Ms. Foundation for Women. I saw it and said ‘ that’s it, that’s my job. My then boyfriend (now husband) thought I was crazy for applying to just one job. But that’s what I did. And I got the job.”

On Getting an Offer From Sheryl Sandberg

A few years later Kelly was offered a job with Lean In.

“I had to move my husband and children to take it and thought, no, I’m not going to uproot my family,” she recalls. “Not now. Not like this.”

“Then I asked myself what my boss, Sheryl Sandberg asks us every day– what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

With her fear in check, Kelly moved forward with the opportunity with  To date, she has been responsible for some of their biggest and most memorable campaigns, including the much publicized Ban Bossy campaign.

Kelly went to George Washington University and even interned for Senator Dianne Feinstein. As a child, Kelly Parisi was often called bossy. She went to the George Washington University and even her college friends remember her being an advocate for women.

“I think there is a new struggle happening in the workplace and that’s, how do we bring our full selves into our work?”

“Authenticity is unique to the individual. By ‘be authentic’ I mean be you. Do you and do your thing. For me that’s talking a lot and having a lot of energy.”

“I have kids and a husband and I bring them into the workplace. I bring the silly parts of me that laughS and has lots of fun and maybe swears a few times. I bring all of that to the workplace. There is no facade, no shell. Because that’s exhausting. And I think what people really want to see… is you being true to you.”

On the Power of PR

Kelly doesn’t take for granted the opportunity to do what she loves.

“PR is power,” says. “PR professionals are the most powerful people behind the powerful people. I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that I’ve been able to translate my personal passion and mission into a profession.”

A Day in the Life of a PR Pro

So what does the day in the life of a powerful PR pro look like? Kelly gave us a play by play.

5 AM | I never set an alarm clock. I have two small children and they are my perennial wake up call.  I wake up to Eleanor climbing on top of me for our morning love fest.

6:10 AM | Once I’m up, I’m up! I have to check my email.  I don’t get out of bed until I’ve read what’s trending on Google or in other words the Rosetta Stone of how my day is going to go in PR that day.

7 AM | The most complicated hour of my day. It involves getting 2 kids and 2 grown-ups fed, dressed, and out the door with lunches, backpacks, permission slips, library books, after-school snacks, sports gear, and everything else under the sun.

8:30 AM | I like to get in before the rest of the team to get a jump on the day, and the quiet time in the morning is a great time for me to write. Today, I finished polishing up the messaging for our #LeanInTogether campaign, which highlights the important role men play in reaching gender equality.

10 AM | Office is full, and this is my favorite time of day. I’m blessed to work with some of the most talented and interesting women (and men) I know, and I love our morning chat sessions where we discuss the news of the day, politics, or our personal lives.

Sometimes we have passionate discussions/debates about our favorite songs and musicians (my top-five Beyoncé  songs are in the appendix).

11 AM |  I’m starving…going to try to hold out until 11:30, because it’s embarrassing how early I always want lunch. As I’m walking out, I get pinged with a request for information and stories from our Lean In Military Circles, which we launched with the support of the Pentagon across all Military branches and with civilian personnel at the DOD.

This is going to consume the next hour.  Still committed to satiating my hunger, so will focus on work after lunch.

2 PM | Weekly meeting with my team.  Great way to catch up and see what’s on the horizon for this week and make sure that we are all connected on priorities and campaigns.

4 PM | Hunkering down to get a messaging strategy document out the door.  I put in my earphones and let the music inspire me and allow me to focus.  I wrap up the strategy document—and not a minute too soon. I need to run out and meet Ellie at karate!

6 PM | Headed home to have dinner with the family. My husband is a true 50/50 partner and great #LeanInTogether man. He’s picked up our son, Jamison, and has started dinner.

6:45 PM | Quick family game of Go Fish before our bedtime routine.  We are a pretty competitive household, and the kids play to win. Ellie also is a huge cheater.

8 PM | The kids are in bed so I spend a few hours responding to the non-urgent emails sitting in my inbox.

10 PM | Putting myself to bed with a good book.  I’m currently reading, All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr. My husband is next to me, and our home is filled with love. I’m excited to do it all again tomorrow.

 This interview was conducted at a Washington Women in PR event. Meet influencers like Kelly Parisi when you join the Washington Women in PR community.
Ursula Lauriston Avatar

Ursula Lauriston is the Founder & Chief Digital Strategist at CAPITOL STANDARD. A dynamic speaker and syndicated writer, she's been featured in Huffington Post, The Vault,Washington Post, and more.