Supporting a CEO’s (Gender) Transition

The Stagwell Group
3 min readNov 19, 2020


this piece was authored by Erica Swerdlow, CEO of WYE Communications

“Business insurance is the most boring industry there is,” Wynne Nowland, CEO of Bradley & Parker, told Wyecomm at our first in-person meeting. “Nobody wants to write about business insurance, though I may have a story that would bring some attention to our company.”

Bradley & Parker is a premier insurance, risk management and financial services firm headquartered in Melville, NY. Despite being one of the most significant privately held insurance brokerages in the U.S., differentiating the business among a large competitive set to influential audiences and the media was a challenge. Wynne approached Wyecomm with an interest in securing visibility for the company with a unique and personal story.

Wynne had scaled the ranks at Bradley & Parker for the past 30 years as a successful, male salesman and point-person for key accounts at the company. In January 2017, Wynne was named CEO, and in May later that year, Wynne, who identified as female, decided to fully transition to a woman.

Wynne thought through every detail and potential consequence on a personal and professional level before moving forward with her gender transition. She provided excellent communications to Bradley & Parker’s board, leadership, employees, clients and other third-party vendors. The organization didn’t lose a single employee or client through the process and Wynne received universal support and acceptance at work.

Wyecomm agreed Wynne had an interesting story that could be told to elevate a positive narrative for the business and transgender communities, as well as put a spotlight on Bradley & Parker’s culture of acceptance and inclusion. We were also hopeful her story would inspire other transgender people and help normalize the public’s perception of transgender individuals.

Our collective strategy was to secure national business press in a reputable publication that would tell Wynne’s transition story accurately and thoughtfully, and then allow future national, insurance and local publications to tell her story, as appropriate for their outlets. To provide the most positive and accurate story, Wyecomm:

· Identified The Wall Street Journal for the exclusive (to tell the story first)

· Encouraged Wynne to be open, honest and direct about her experience

· Secured additional spokespeople to tell the story from their perspective, including board members, employees, HR leadership and clients

· Helped Wynne deliver key messages about Bradley & Parker as a successful business with an inclusive culture

· Incorporated professional photos and video to supplement the media coverage

Working with The Wall Street Journal reporter Vanessa Furhmans and her editor, Wyecomm secured interviews, a photo shoot and a feature story about Wynne’s transition, complete with positive Bradley & Parker messaging. The story, What Happened When a CEO Came Out as Transgender, was featured online and in-print, and spurred additional coverage, including a broadcast segment with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, a feature article and video in Newsday and a podcast interview on Marketplace Radio, to name a few.

The coverage has had a positive impact on Bradley & Parker and has led to many people showing public support for Wynne, even though there have been hateful and negative responses to her story. From the start, our strategy was to have a thick skin and ignore negative comments, emails and calls. However, we decided Wynne would mention the negative comments in future interviews to highlight the need to continue showcasing positive transgender stories, especially in business, and encourage inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace. In the end, Wynne’s story isn’t just a personal one — it’s about giving voices to underserved and underrepresented communities.

Erica Swerdlow is the Chief Executive Officer of Wye Communications, a Stagwell Company. She is responsible for the continued development of a new communications agency that puts expert integration and operations between client and agency. With more than 30 years of experience working in public relations, Erica has managed global and national accounts across supply chain and logistics, technology, healthcare, food and beverage, hospitality and more. Her experience includes building and managing corporate reputation, brand marketing, media relations and crisis communications.

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