In the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day, we chose to challenge the status quo: Because despite the progress made by women in marketing, we’ve still got a long way to go to close the gender gaps in the marketing industry. Putting gender equality on our business agenda, we’re going to examine what makes women a great choice for marketing leadership roles, how we can boost opportunities for female team members and co-workers, and what challenges women are facing as they create a better future for themselves. The campaign theme for the International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. In the spirit of gender equality, we aim to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action to create a more inclusive world. Let's choose to challenge ourselves, our team members and fellow marketers. Because a challenged world is an alert world.
More Women Enter The Industry, But Gender Inequality Remains
The Australian marketing sector is a rapidly growing industry. According to a report prepared by Deloitte Economics, it’s workforce is expected to jump from 269,000 people in 2017 to 299,000 by 2022. That’s 30,000 additional workers or an average annual growth rate of 2.2 percent.These days, women are slightly more likely than men to enter the marketing world. The industry is also getting a lot better at encouraging female marketers to remain in their jobs and retaining diverse, senior skill sets. Working environments are more diverse than they have ever been. But whilst we may see glimmers of hope, the fight for gender equality in the marketing industry is far from done. Australia may have recently made history with the first ever woman CEO hitting the top of the list of the highest paid, but has the glass ceiling really been smashed?On the contrary, recent statistics paint a grim picture:
- Currently, Australia’s national gender pay gap is 13.4 percent
- In Australia, men working in marketing earn on average 7 percent more than women
- Women’s average weekly full-time earnings across occupations is $1,562.00
- During the same timeframe, men made $1,804.20, on average
(Note: includes owner managers of incorporated enterprises)
Scientists who’ve surveyed hundreds of 360-degree leadership reviews over more than 30 years, found that women in leadership positions are perceived as just as competent and effective as men, if not more so. Yet, the majority of leaders in the business world, that includes marketing and advertising, are men. Males still dominate amongst senior marketing positions. In organisations with one person at the head of the marketing department, 62 per cent of leadership roles fall into the hands of men. Women are still more likely to rise to manager level and then plateau.The percentage of women in senior leadership roles has in fact remained relatively steady since the same researchers conducted their original research. Today, only 33 of the Fortune 500 companies are led by women.
The Need for Female Leadership in Marketing
Tara Walpert Levy, VP of agency and brand solutions at Google explained in an interview with Forbes that “The overwhelming majority of women say that advertising doesn’t represent them.” This can only be corrected by bringing more women to the tables where decisions are made and giving them a broader voice in these boardrooms.
Why aren’t there more women in leadership roles?
If women are entering advertising departments at a higher rate than men, where do they go? Well, for one, some researchers suggest this is because of general psychological differences between the genders. Men are said to be typically more assertive and dominant in comparison to their female colleagues, and more likely to voice their opinions during discussions or ask for a promotion. Secondly, the role of women in families and society as a whole, still poses great challenges to their professional advancement. Women are more often than not the ones with the most family and household responsibilities, and flexible work solutions can be hard to come by. For women working agency-side, hours are long, demanding and erratic. It can make holding down the fort a challenge - especially when children are involved. Of course, we’re painting an extremely simplified picture of a complex issue with many moving parts. Not all women, for example, are heterosexual or get married by the age of 28. Not all have, or even want or are able to have children. It may be 2021, but we're still dealing with problematic beliefs held by both genders, and an inherent bias in recruitment and promotion in the marketing industry, making it harder for women to climb the ladder. Nowadays, women make up 85 percent of purchasing decisions. If organisations were committed to their customers, they’d make sure they were better represented in their leadership teams, across all departments. Great marketing and creative work starts with a diverse range of people.And women are perfectly equipped for this role: Their communication skills and emotional intelligence allow them to connect with and influence audiences, create meaningful exchanges and build long-lasting relationships.
What Makes Women Effective Marketers?
To cite Mark Ritson, Professor of Marketing from the University of Melbourne: “Women have a massive genetic advantage when it comes to marketing: their brains are better designed for it.”Ritson makes the following arguments to proof his point:
- Women’s brains seek connection
According to Ritson, females have a greater sensitivity to the feelings of their peers and are better equipped to understand the thoughts of others compared to their male counterparts. Ritson also argues that “there is, perhaps, no more important skill for a marketer than empathy.” It is a marketers most important trait, allowing them to understand their target audiences needs and preferences, and use that understanding to create impactful advertising campaigns.
- Women’s brains are well equipped for market research
The professor also explains that women excel at another essential marketing skill: Conducting market research. Scientific studies suggest that women have a larger corpus callosum, the nerve fiber bundle connecting the left and right cerebral hemisphere. As a result, women are great at understanding what is important to consumers and measuring how important variables are.
- Women understand what makes brands tick
A cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work when you are trying to establish a successful brand. Each brand operates in a distinct environment, deals with different market segments and target audiences. Women, Ritson claims, are attune to understanding the unique challenges associated with each brand. One of the biggest differences between males and females is how they process information. Men, Ritson says, are more likely to rely on generalised rules and principles and tend to apply existing strategies they've found to work elsewhere. Female marketers, however, are better equipped to compartmentalise their experiences, and understand the specific details and circumstances of a brand. They are also oriented to quick, intuitive thinking and are able to keep things short and ‘to the point’.
Practical Steps You Can Take to Encourage Equality
We still have a long way to go to achieve equality in the marketing industry. What can you personally do to support the women around you? Here are some practical tips to help you get started!
- Create a work culture that promotes work-life balance
Embrace flexible working arrangements to attract and retain the best talent. COVID-19 taught us that marketing work can be done from anywhere with a steady internet connection. Allow your team to decide for themselves where to work, when to start and end their work day. This will greatly benefit team members with children and domestic duties, and provide more opportunities for men to contribute to parenting and chores around the house.
- Provide better maternity and paternity leave
Give women the chance to fully recover after birth and spend time with their newborns without having to worry about work. Better maternity and paternity leave, and flex time agreements, ensure that moms and dads can share the responsibility of raising their kids.
- Delegate authority to competent female workers
Taking on projects builds leadership skills. A lot of women feel that they do not deserve to be in charge. Many don’t apply for a position because they’re not 100 percent qualified. Meanwhile, plenty of underqualified men are being promoted, simply because they had the guts to ask. Give your female employees a chance to prove themselves, by delegating authority.
- Start a mentorship program and provide women with training opportunities
Use your experience to lift your team up. Having identified emerging female leaders, provide them with the resources, such as mentorship and training opportunities, to improve their leadership skills.Research by Zenger and Folkman found that women under 25 have lower self-confidence compared to their male peers. This gap only closes at around age 40. Having someone believing in their abilities at the start of their careers, can give young women the boost needed to believe in themselves. Don’t be afraid to recognise and talk about gender in the workplace as opening this line of communication can encourage a wholesome work environment but also lessen the divide between the sexes.Anchor Digital is a diverse team of senior digital agency folk. We are united by a shared vision for our industry, and what we can do differently. To discuss the future of your own marketing efforts with us, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.