Senior women in marketing: One step beyond mentoring
It is no secret that the world of marketing is one that is dominated by talented females, yet looking around the boardrooms of most organisations, you would be forgiven for thinking that women were outnumbered two to one – or even more – by men company-wide. So why is it that the glass ceiling is so prominent in this discipline? And how should ambitious women working within marketing and communications best further their careers?
VMA group recently hosted a think tank in conjunction with Nicola Green, director of communications & reputation at O2, to address the representation of women in senior roles. This event was attended by high-profile female directors from organisations including Lloyds Banking Group, Deloitte, EY, Siemens and the NSPCC, who joined together to discuss the drawbacks for women in this sector and what organisations should be doing to pave the way for the female leaders of tomorrow.
One prominent theme that arose was that women can often be much more reluctant than men to put themselves forward for the top positions. VMA’s latest edition of their Business Leaders in Communications study even revealed that 62% of senior professionals are men, jumping to a colossal 81% in organisations with a turnover of £15bn+. It is a proven fact that women’s upbringings can dramatically impact their lifelong self-esteem and confidence – a trait which most men do not have to overcome. Because of this, women may overlook their own natural talents and focus on the negatives – or what they can’t do, rather than what they can. In most cases, men are far more willing to self-promote – their mindset seems to be relatively unphased by the challenges of a new role if they believe they will be a good fit. But it’s important to make the differentiation that women in marketing do not lack courage; their ideas are innovative, they are consistent contributors to projects and they are usually strong assets to the team. But it is not courage that lands you in the boardroom – it is confidence.
Rather than seeing the worth in their work and contribution, they must see their own self-worth and use that as a tool to propel their career further.
Mentoring was discussed as an effective way of internal career support within an organisation. Contrary to what many people believe, a mentor does not always have to be another woman, but just someone who can provide support and advice, and act as an advocate. In many cases, it can work spectacularly well to utilise males in mentoring schemes, as this can further ebb away at underlying issues of gender bias or discrimination and invite men to join the struggle for equality. When effective, this practice can provide strong foundations for more junior female employees, who have not otherwise had any training on combating gender issues and may sometimes need a push when advancing through an organisation. It is the responsibility of all – particularly people on the board – to help to pave the way for female talent in these ways, but it is up to women to build those bridges and break down the glass ceilings in order to fully progress. Here, mentors can be of great assistance, too, in preparing women for the boardroom and in instilling the confidence they need to get there.digital_assett_management
But should organisations be doing more than this?
One popular method of controlling the gender balance at senior level is by using quotas when it comes to hiring. This is a hotly-debated topic and one that many have strong opinions about. On the one hand, some believe quotas merely add fuel to the fire of workplace discrimination by acting as a tick-box exercise and undermining true gender equality. But, realistically, it is hard to imagine that any organisations – particularly ones with strong histories of male-dominated boardrooms – would just revolutionise their selection processes and bring in a whole new C-Suite. Quotas are there to reinforce initiatives to diversify and combat the subconscious biases that may exist at all levels of an organisation. They shouldn’t be demonised or misunderstood; they are a practical solution to the gender imbalance in boardrooms and a force for good.
So, what is the best way for ambitious women to further their careers within marketing?
Firstly, they must even the playing field with their male counterparts by presenting themselves as confident and putting themselves forward for the top roles. They should avoid using typically female methods of speech including double negatives or less assertive phrases such as “I feel that…” or “I could be wrong but…” and have conviction in themselves and their ability to progress. They also need to be able to express their value to those who might promote them, rather than relying on managers noticing their worth organically. It’s important in all areas of business to never sell yourself short – see yourself as a fully-formed product and others will want to invest in you.
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