Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day, a worldwide event that celebrates both the individual and wider achievements of women in business, tech, creative and more. Having reached out to women leaders last year, PerformanceIN once again asked senior positions within digital advertising and performance marketing for their opinion and experiences on the role of women in the industry, top tips to succeed and whether there’s been a positive change within the sector.

Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer, ADARA

It’s gratifying to see the tremendous progress we’ve made over the years in terms of greater gender equality and diversity in general. I’m particularly proud of my company’s commitment to pay equality and further boosting mutual respect and inclusion throughout the organization.

We each need to constantly guard against bias; it’s insidious and happens when we rely on intuition and short-cuts in hiring, promoting and assigning projects. Rather than making a thoughtful, deliberate decision, we rely on hunches and favour the person that looks like us or that has external characteristics similar to someone else that has been successful in the role. Given the data-driven and analytically sophisticated industry we operate in, I know we’re quite capable of the more rigorous and logical approach. At a personal level, International Women’s Day is my reminder to take stock and re-commit to foster inclusion through mentoring, public speaking, and encouraging others to be heard.

Sophie Raptis, client director, The Ozone Project

As a woman working in media sales teams across international news organisations and now The Ozone Project, building and nurturing internal and external business relationships has played a central role in my progression.

Throughout my career I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by some very influential, smart and collaborative women at all levels of the business hierarchy who have acted as a support network, mentoring and helping me to develop the skills required in a competitive industry and ultimately making my advertising experience a positive one.  
However, it’s evident that improvements still need to be made across all businesses regardless of sector, such as increasing the number of senior female decision makers. It’s not just a tick-box exercise – it’s well documented that diverse teams get better results, but this is often not reflected when you look at female board representation. We must all share a responsibility to continue raising awareness of the fact that diversity of all kinds drives business success.

Shukrita Puri, global managing partner & digital business transformation lead, Zenith

I believe it’s a good time for women in the industry. You are increasingly seeing more women in senior positions, running a large business; even in traditionally male-dominated roles and sectors, women are balancing the scale. All of this has taken its time, through steady efforts by several women in business, due to whom I have the privilege of rarely thinking about gender at my work.

Joanna Chan, digital associate director, Zenith

It’s sad but true that a gender gap across all industries remains, including in performance and digital marketing. I feel pretty lucky throughout my career as I have never felt discriminated against as a female. My first two bosses were very strong and supportive female leaders, who have taught me a lot. Also, having a female for the UK CEO of Zenith is an inspiration for me. I think her appointment speaks volumes in the agency’s respect for females who choose to have both careers and children.

Sarah Gilbertson, enterprise sales manager, Radius by Impact

My career spans almost 2 decades, and more and more I feel like other people wonder if women in senior positions are there because they’re qualified or a token on the diversity quota. In the past, it was only ever assumed that women who had made it was there on merit!
I am a working mum, military wife and businesswoman. I am incredibly competitive and work hard to be better than I was the day before. I want my daughter to grow up in the knowledge that, with hard work and focus, she can do whatever she wants.
Diversity needs to shift from quota attainment to nurturing diverse talent. International Women’s Day is a perfect time to remember that as a senior woman in tech, I carry a burden to mentor the talented upcoming women in our industry.

Julia Smith, founder, Digital Trading Consultancy LTD and partner, The 614 Group

The industry is always under pressure to improve standards and transparency across equality and diversity and, in the last 6 months, I have seen an increasing amount of positive change. I have also seen numerous women making changes in their jobs and the choice of companies that they work with. Their decisions have been influenced by those companies with the flexibility to allow them to achieve the right work/life balance and which benefits every aspect of their life.
For me, the fact that I run my own consultancy has enabled me to work flexible days and hours during the week; enabling me to achieve an incredibly balanced work/life ratio. My clients also benefit as they don’t pay for my hours when I need time off for my family and I can achieve more in the time I dedicate to each client without any disruptions.
On International Women’s Day, I think it’s critical to remind ourselves that we should have that same choice and work for an employer that offers and promotes flexibility. Forward-thinking companies that do have this strategy will be more successful and more sought after by the talented people in our industry.

Rachel Bristow, director of client partnerships, Sky Media

As an industry, I think we are gaining momentum and making progress on gender equality, but there is still work to be done on both sides. It’s important that men are actively involved in addressing gender diversity. Organisations should help men have a good work-life balance through initiatives such as flexible working and shared parental/supportive paternity leave. These initiatives should be on a par with those offered to women to evolve the workplace in a broader sense.

From a personal perspective, although I don’t feel like I’ve faced any gender-related obstacles I did experience harassment earlier in my career. A supportive HR Manager helped me to deal with the situation, but the experience highlighted the importance of acting upon such issues.

As a woman in a leadership role, I put my success down to being willing to lead on projects where the answer isn’t always clear and help colleagues through difficult periods. These times have been my steepest learning curves helping me to increase my resilience.

I believe we need to get to a point where gender diversity is not thought about in all businesses, and the balance is 50:50. We need to continue working towards a world where diversity in all forms is embedded in both a company and its employees’ behaviour.

Ana De Sousa, data scientist, Cxense

At Cxense, I am surrounded by smart and talented people who are all passionate about what they do. It means that I enjoy what I do every day, and that drives me to push harder and achieve more.  As a young student, I was once told by one of my teachers to “let my passion continue to move you forwards. These would be the words I would ask anyone looking to come into the industry to remember.

When I first started out in data science, it was still a relatively new field and was certainly not something that had a significant female representation. It’s taken a few years but now so many more people are keen to understand the power of data and this is opening more doors for people, especially women looking to work in tech.

Rivi Bloch, interim CEO, Taptica

Prior to working in the mobile advertising industry, I was an officer for the Israeli air force. There is a lot I have learnt as a woman working in a male-dominated environment, the first being that your voice matters, so speak out when you have an opinion or when something isn’t right. The second is not to be afraid of failure. This is such an age-old saying, but my role in the military taught me how to be decisive under pressure. Even if you fail or make mistakes, there is always a lesson to learn from the experience to make you stronger and wiser.

This is something I still consider in my current role as Interim CEO at Taptica; no matter whether you’re in the army or in business there will always be hurdles to overcome. However, being brave, taking chances and speaking out will have their benefits and serve you well.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha, director of client & strategic partnerships, ForwardPMX

As a woman and a leader in the Digital Marketing sector, I clearly see the issues we as an industry still have with gender within senior positions. However, this doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made, with more of a spotlight being placed on this over the past few years. Although the representation of women in senior leadership positions is not what it should be, women now account for 30.9% of C Suite roles in 2018 up from 26% in 2013. While gender issues are becoming more widely discussed in the marketing sector, more still needs to be done to close the gender gap and encourage women to succeed in agencies as gender disparities still exist.

We all need to start taking proactive measures such as recruiting from outside the sector and ensuring that, regardless of gender, everyone enters at the correct seniority level – forcing us to assess skills rather than their previous experience in the industry. Taking a meritocratic approach to development and promotion will ensure that we have the right people for the right roles. At ForwardPMX, there has been a proactive approach to changing the traditional agency environment and to become more forward facing. This is evidenced by our gender splits and practices as we are continuously promoting diversity and inclusion.

Jenny Stanley, founder of Appetite Creative Solutions and Femme Niche

Women in the digital marketing and advertising industry represent approximately 35% of the overall industry. However, that’s not representative of the purchasing power that the advertisers actually spend their marketing budgets advertising to. If women buy and interact more with brands, then surely it would be beneficial for women to have equal input into where the spend goes?  Diversity makes good business sense and the smaller companies seem to lead the way with building their teams more equally and efficiently. It is vital for success, both as a business and for a brand, that we work to try to redress the balance more evenly. Being aware of the challenge is the first step. The second is to prove that a diverse and equal model works on the bottom line as well as the morale line.   

Preethy Vaidyanathan, chief product officer, Tapad

Having a growth mindset, a belief that intelligence and competence can be developed is vital. It’s easy to feel insecure when we face new challenges, but focusing on that insecurity can actually hinder our ability to learn and grow. I have found that women, in particular, have a tendency to focus on their weaknesses instead of doubling down on the areas where they excel. I’d encourage women to focus their energy instead on improving upon their natural talents and on tapping into that growth mindset, so they can overcome inevitable setbacks.

Additional tips:

  • Learn continuously – it’s easier than ever to find online courses (Coursera, Lynda) that allow professionals to expand their skill-sets. Put that growth mindset into practice
  • Seek out mentors – find a champion who is willing to guide you. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you admire for advice
  • Speak-up – be proactive, have a voice, even when you are new. Ask to shadow someone, take on that additional responsibility, don’t be afraid to stand-out, raise your hand and ask that question. Be proactive in making your career
  • Remember – your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect to be perfect straight-away. Cut yourself some slack, enjoy the journey

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.