Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Kate Reilly, chief membership & people officer, PPL

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Kate Reilly, chief membership & people officer, PPL

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.

They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.

Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.

As PPL’s chief membership & people officer, Kate Reilly has made a major impact in the music industry, championing inclusion, expanding opportunities, and helping to launch services that benefit countless performers and recording rights holders.

In her role, Reilly is responsible for maintaining and developing the service PPL provides to its members. And her remit extends beyond member services. Since joining PPL in 2011 as part of the HR team, Reilly has been instrumental in creating a strong equity, diversity and inclusion agenda that spans recruitment, training, development and career progression. She helped launch PPL PRS Ltd – PPL’s joint venture with PRS for Music – and is tasked with shaping and delivering PPL’s HR strategy, a job for which she’s won considerable acclaim. Under her stewardship, PPL also published its EDI strategy in 2022, one of the first organisations in the music industry to do so. 

Reilly also helped establish the UK Music Diversity Taskforce and supported the launch of its Ten-Point Plan and subsequently The 5 Ps – initiatives to fight racism, increase diversity and boost inclusion among the music industry’s trade bodies. She and her team regularly provide other organisations and charities with HR support, working with them to navigate challenges and protect their people.  

How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women in Music Roll Of Honour?

“The list of names already on the Roll Of Honour is incredible, many of whom I have worked with in some capacity, so to be able to join them is a real privilege! I remember attending the first Women In Music event and my colleague Christine Geissmar, chief operating officer at PPL, was inducted. It was an inspiration, something to aspire to, so to be joining her feels like a real accomplishment. Something which stuck with me from last year’s awards was how Chloë Roberts, who won Businesswoman of the Year, referred to herself as the ‘midfielder’ and how important they are. As someone who has always tended to be more behind the scenes than out front, it really brought home the role that I play.”

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“Honestly, it was a little daunting. Whilst I had worked in HR for many years, the music industry was a completely new thing for me. Looking back, I really had no idea about what I was coming into – the nuances, the creativity, some of the complexities around it. I really only knew it as a consumer of music. I feel very lucky to have been able to make that transition within a company like PPL, where there is great support and some music industry veterans who are more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise!”

Did you have a mentor at that stage? 

“It’s hard to call out just one, everyone at PPL is about making people successful, and they will do whatever they can to help you on your journey. It’s full of experts, so it was more about drawing on different individuals depending on what you were trying to do or learn. Since joining the executive management team in 2012 I can’t thank Peter Leathem, PPL’s CEO, enough for all his support and guidance – both within the role and for providing insight and connections across the industry. He has always advocated for me. I also sat next to David Harmsworth, PPL’s general counsel for 10 years. There was nothing that he didn’t know about the inner workings of PPL and the music industry more generally. He was a great confidant and adviser, and I will always be truly grateful for that.”

You have spent 12 years at PPL – how supportive is the organisation of female executive talent? Does its gender pay gap performance point to a healthy culture within the organisation?

“PPL is incredibly supportive of female executive talent. I started out as senior HR business partner in 2011, and have progressed through to now being the chief membership and people officer, looking after HR, member services and facilities and sitting on the executive team. When I expressed my desire to explore career options outside of HR, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to take on member services in 2022, with the full support and encouragement of Peter Leathem, and knowing full well that it would be a learning curve. 

“I am just one example, and this is reflected in our gender pay gap figures. The mean gender pay gap for 2023 has dropped to 5.4% in favour of men, from 11.7% in 2022. Having a virtually equal number of men and women – 49% and 51% respectively – in the company’s senior leadership team contributes significantly to reducing the overall mean pay gap. The median gender pay gap has also decreased since the last reporting period, to 12.5% in favour of men, from 13.6%. Whilst the male to female ratio is almost equal at senior leadership level, a heavier male skew further down the organisation at manager level causes the median gap – that 12.5% – to be higher than the mean, which is 5.4%. Of course, there is always more to do!”

PPL has been recognised for its diversity measures – including winning at Women in Music in 2018 - how have you built on those initiatives?

“We have been explicit about our commitment to change and have placed this at the centre of our core values, encouraging and expecting inclusive behaviour from all those who engage with PPL. We know that a more diverse and inclusive approach will bring benefits to our company and our industry but, more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. In 2022, we launched our ED&I strategy. Its purpose is to deliver fundamental change, set targets and define the key priorities for PPL in order to achieve them. Our approach is driven by a diverse group of employees across the company, from senior management to those in entry level roles. I’m proud that it has really been embraced internally, and [has led to] the delivery of meaningful action and progress.”

PPL is incredibly supportive of female executive talent

Kate Reilly

Last year you added leadership of the Membership team to your duties – what have been the key challenges there?

“Despite having been at PPL for nearly 11 years at the time, and having some understanding of what member services did, the biggest challenge has been the vast number of things that I have needed to learn, and still need to learn! I’ve also realised just how much opportunity there is to continue to develop how we service our membership. That being said, I like to get things done, so a personal challenge for me is that change takes time! Luckily for me, I have the support and expertise of PPL’s executive management team who can help me on that journey.”

How important is your role in terms of engagement with other organisations, particularly UK Music's Diversity Taskforce?

“Engagement with other organisations has been key in the development of my career and the stepping stone to being able to take on the member services aspect of my role – you learn through engagement with others and building relationships across the industry. This has also been particularly important with driving the diversity and inclusion agenda. We are all on the same journey, albeit at different points, and it’s important to share knowledge and successes. It’s also important that it is not just a forum for discussion, but that there is actual tangible action and accountability. As one of the bigger organisations sitting on the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, I’ve always been keen to ensure we talk about the practicalities of what we are trying to achieve and how we operationalise what we want to do – Paulette Long has at times referred to it as ‘the Kate sledge hammer’! Often organisations want to make the change but they just don’t know how to.”

What’s your biggest achievement so far? 

“There have been many over the 12 years, and this award is definitely going on the list! It has also been the opportunity to take on the PPL member services department, something I never would have thought possible. This was a result of years of hard work, whether that be helping to launch PPL PRS Ltd, PPL’s joint venture with PRS for Music providing HR services to the industry, winning awards for diversity and inclusion and employee engagement, or managing the impact Covid-19 had on our income, our people and our members. All of which would not have been possible if I did not have a great team around me!”

What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?

“Take every opportunity that comes your way, you never know where it may lead. There is no such thing as a bad decision, it’s either a great learning opportunity – as you are likely to never do it again – or it will take you down a different path which is likely to lead to more opportunity you could never have anticipated!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?

“To always recruit and develop people to be better than you are. It’s not something to be afraid of, having someone work for you that may one day be better than you. Also, to always be kind and humble and that it’s okay to not know everything!”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?

“We definitely have a few at PPL and I wouldn’t like to single one of them out.” 

Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're enjoying right now/excited about?

“I am really enjoying listening to Libianca at the moment.”

Finally, what’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“Have confidence, don’t rush the process and believe in yourself. When taking on a new challenge you realise just how much ingrained knowledge you have in an area you have worked in for a long time. You forget the growing pains of taking on something new.”

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