Today (March 8) marks International Women’s Day, a worldwide event that celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements.  

To mark the occasion, PerformanceIN went to several female leaders within the industry for their personal thoughts and experiences related to the role of women in performance marketing at present.

Helen Southgate, managing director, Acceleration Partners

When we look at gender equality across the affiliate industry we are moving in the right direction. But if we look at some of the top companies in our industry to see how many women they have in senior and board positions improvements still need to be made. There are a couple of clearly progressive companies whose senior team is made up of 50% women, but all companies we looked at have less than 20% in their executive team. One company has no women in any senior positions at all. The government target for FTSE 100 companies is 33% in board positions by 2020 and all companies should be working towards this.  

On International Women’s Day, and in the year which marks 100 years since women got the right to vote, let’s all think about what we can do to make a positive difference across our industry. This isn’t just about women, this is about equality across our industry, being given the same opportunities regardless of your sex, background, ethnicity, disabilities or otherwise. We are all responsible for making sure this happens and conferences are a place to demonstrate to young people, new people and those from outside the industry, what a diverse and equal channel we are. But everyone has to play their part; call it out when you think something is not right.

Change only happens when people stand up and do something about it.

Julia Smith, director of communications, Impact Radius

I welcome this year’s International Women’s Day as recently, we lost one of the strongest female leaders in our industry, Nicky McShane.

She was an integral part of the performance marketing industry, and on International Women’s Day, it is her values and attitude that we should be celebrating and embracing.

Ami Spencer, international publisher director, Webgains

International Women’s Day is a fantastic occasion for us to acknowledge achievements made to date, as well as see the opportunities within affiliate marketing. I am fortunate to be working for a forward-thinking company where women in senior positions are equally supported.

I believe that companies which encourage all staff to continuously develop, speak up and make decisions autonomously will naturally develop a culture that excels and innovates.

Sarah Bundy, founder & CEO, All Inclusive Marketing

One of the things that excited me most about last year was the surge of women coming into the performance marketing space from the media and social influencer angles. We’ve seen a lift in female subject matter experts taking the stage in a variety of different performance-based-marketing initiatives and elevating the voice, and prominent presence, of women in successful business roles in performance marketing.

Mary Keane-Dawson, founder & CEO, TRUTH

When looking at the last year, you really need to do have a before and after. How was I treated before Harvey Weinstein was exposed and the birth of the #metoo movement, and how was I treated after that? I wrote a column calling out men who had been pretty badly behaved towards me and the reactions were very interesting but also pretty shocking. I’m no shrinking violet and I’m pretty adept at being able to look after myself. However, what shocked me was the volume of younger women, and men, much earlier in their careers who had #metoo experiences and have not had a chance or a platform to speak out.

I’ve championed the voices of women, youth and diversity in our industry for many years. I knew what my experiences had been and those of my close friends; I knew many paid lip-service to standing up for women – both men and women in senior positions – but I would question how many took it seriously. In the post-Weinstein era, you cannot afford to not take it seriously. Those that don’t are losing their credibility and in some cases their jobs.

Vix Leyton, PR manager, Decision Tech

Performance has been a fantastic industry to build a career in. It has changed substantially in the decade I’ve been working in the space and it’s never evolved quicker than it has over the last eighteen months; increasingly in the spotlight as one of the hardest working modern marketing channels for driving businesses forward.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people over the years and have never felt I was held back from any opportunity by being a woman but there is definitely room at the top for more of the inspirational and talented women in our industry to be represented. All too often I still walk into rooms of senior marketers and find the vast majority are men, something that is even more obvious when you look at speaker agendas.

I recognise there are a myriad of factors for this and that no one is necessarily wilfully dragging their feet on diversity, but representation is important, in all aspects of the industry. To do this best we need to coach and encourage both genders to not be afraid to put themselves forward for opportunities, providing everyone with the tools and the confidence to progress. The performance industry is definitely somewhere with space for women to thrive, and we need to shout about it whenever we can.

Carla Arrindell, managing director, Optimise

The industry has been under increasing pressure to heighten standards and transparency in recent months, and the collaborative approach that’s been taken has been impressive. In my opinion, this collaborative spirit makes it a great industry to be part of, regardless of whether you’re male or female.

Heather Dansie, associate insight director, data sciences, Publicis Media

When it comes to female role models, I count myself very lucky. I come from a family where women have always worked and my first two bosses were both board-member women in a male-dominated agency. I was able to watch how they spoke up through very different styles of leadership. At Publicis Media, I’ve consistently worked alongside female CEOs and heads of departments and have been supported hugely by both brilliant women and men. Through being one of WACL’s Future Leaders in 2015 I have also met incredibly inspiring women who are challenging the ‘Mad Men’ stereotype. However I don’t take my luck for granted and I know how easy it is for it is to go back, rather than forward.

In tougher financial climates the danger is always that agencies become narrower in the types of people they hire, despite the fact that the UK is becoming more diverse. Gender is of course only one part of this diversity story. As advertisers, we have a responsibility to reflect the wealth of lifestyles that exist in the UK and we can only do this if our agencies reflect this too.

The efforts of both my working female family and my female colleagues mean I have the privilege of rarely thinking about my gender at work. However, I’m conscious that only through continued efforts in championing women will we think about it even less,”

Joanna Lyall, managing director, Mindshare UK

This year, I am feeling very optimistic about the opportunities and future for women in media. The big spotlight on diversity means it’s never been a better time for women working across all sectors as more and more organisations are being scrutinised. Companies are waking up and recognising that something big must change and it isn’t just about improving maternity policies it is much broader and more fundamental than that.

I see two big challenges in getting more women into senior positions. Firstly, let’s take confidence and visible ambition; women are less likely to make choices that are about raising their personal profile. We see less of them on stages, in keynotes and panels and this lack of visibility has a significant impact on both them as an individual and those that look to be inspired by them. This comes down to women often holding back and not actively putting themselves forward. It’s, therefore, the responsibility of employers to develop programmes that prepare women more actively for this being a part of their role that they can learn to love.

Secondly, the maternity slow down. Managing the transition between going on mat leave and returning is so critical and often overlooked.  The return to work is a time when women can fall into a holding pattern because they are adjusting to managing work and home life and companies must do more to acknowledge this and then help them accelerate. Organisations with a strategy and programme on how to work with both men and women during this time will be more successful,”

Amy Kean, head of strategic innovation, global, Starcom

I’m much more aware of the role and necessity of diversity in business than I was at the start of my career, and now it’s the thing I care about most. In the last few years women in media (and across every industry) have realised that certain behaviours, rituals and rules that we thought were OK are not OK, so to see this change, and that we’re coming out of the woods, is a wonderful, positive thing. And things are changing, slowly.

Generally, all women want is to be treated fairly, with respect and get paid the same as men, which doesn’t seem a huge ask but it’s been met with resistance from some corners, which is why professionally, International Women’s Day is as important as ever. We’ve seen some agencies print their discrepancy between male and female pay recently and I’ve been shocked at the results.

For me, the fact that Starcom has enabled me to work four days a week to grab back the work/life balance I’d let go of in the past, giving me more time to work on creative side projects, has been an absolute game-changer. Mentally, there’s a real freedom that this brings you. Whether you have kids or you don’t, I think it’s important to have that choice and to work for an employer that offers and promotes flexibility, and doesn’t need you to sell your soul in order to get the job done. Having a global female CEO does – unfortunately, really – make a huge difference: someone who overtly and authentically cares for people’s progression and wellbeing is still a bit of a rarity in the industry.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on International Women’s Day and the performance marketing industry, feel free to comment in the section below or email us…