In recent years, as digital marketing has risen in popularity, it has become pretty evident that the industry is seriously lacking in females. Although we’ve come a long way since having a female leader ruffled some feathers, it’s still interesting to see the divide between male and female digital marketers. So, in light of International Women’s Day, I decided to get to the bottom of the case and speak to female digital marketers in the industry.
From the good to the ugly, here are the views of many incredible females which I had the honour of chatting to. It’s time to raise our voices loud and proud!
Dimana Markova – Digital Marketing Executive at inspiresport
“I’ve been blessed with a great ‘journey’ in Digital Marketing so far. I’ve always been lucky enough to work with some incredible women who supported my career growth and looked out for me! Even now, my manager is female and she 100% resonates with all work and personal issues I come across. I truly think I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable if the case was different.
I definitely acknowledge that I’ve had obvious luck in that sense but it also motivates me to keep going because it’s evident to me that you can make quite a difference as a female in the industry.”
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “As a female, my experience within Digital Marketing has been overall positive. Within the office, there is an equal gender ration which works quite well and I do feel like it is a comfortable industry for females.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “However, with that being said, I do sometimes find that the more senior male staff within the office use their gender and age to look down upon some of the work I do and my abilities. They can also often make quite sexist/sexual comments towards women which both me and my other female colleagues don’t agree with.”
“Overall, I think us females are doing some incredible things within the Digital Marketing industry and I’m excited for both my future and the future of others.”
Alice Venard – Digital Marketing Apprentice at Savills
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “Working for a very corporate company, I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting my apprenticeship. But working alongside some fabulous women in our little marketing corner of the office, we have put together some great campaigns and content for our clients!”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I’ve been in this industry for around 7 months, I’m yet to come across any gender issues. A lot of our office don’t really get what we do, but it gives us an element of mystery I suppose. The main problem I find from men that I know is not understanding my job and it not being taken seriously compared to my older brother who is a Software Engineer, for example. I have friends who just think I sit and tweet all day and that’s just a super easy laid back job.”
How can we improve on these issues? “I think to improve on these issues there should be more female-focused networking events and highlighting of achievements.”
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “I have had 2 jobs within digital marketing, both of them being apprenticeships. I am a very creative person so I knew that this route was the correct one for me right from leaving school at 16. At my old job, when working within an all-male environment it had its ups and downs. I did notice that because I was female whilst working there, there were a few issues around my gender. This did make me feel uncomfortable, however, I brushed it off my shoulders and did my work to the highest standard possible. In the end, I left this company due to them being unable to train me properly.
This was a slight knock for myself because I lost confidence in my work. After a few weeks, I lifted myself up and applied for 25 apprenticeships due to having to be in full-time education till 18. I had many interviews and job offers, but in the end, I took the position at my current placement. This is also a near enough all-male environment, however, I am treated with respect and my colleagues are so friendly. They also love the work I am carrying out.”
Any other thoughts? “The learning curve I have got from my experiences at my old placement and my current one is that you can’t presume how all companies work, and also that no matter what any man tells you, you are strong and you can do anything if you put your mind to it!”
Jade Hampton – Digital Marketer
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “My experience has been met with lots of doubt actually from male counterparts. In my first role in Digital Marketing, I was referred to as “young padawan”, when in reality I had more experience in the industry than they did. There was also lots of comments about my use of emojis (believe it or not). I remember writing a blog piece and being asked “wow did you write that all by yourself?”. I also get questioned quite a lot about my ability to fulfil tasks without letting my feminist views “get in the way”.
How can we improve on these gender issues? “I think digital is seen as a man’s world unfortunately, it’s got a long way to go before women are as respected, and our opinions are acknowledged within the industry. I think more female digital marketers need to shout louder and get themselves out there on social media. It’s that unconscious bias, whereby the general public assumes websites and anything digital are created by a geeky looking bloke…”
Alexandra Tachalova – Founder of Digital Olympus
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “Some time ago I wrote a post on my Facebook where I’m talking about this problem. Frankly, I’ve never experienced any disrespectful behaviour towards me or my team (all my colleagues are also ladies). Once I remember one potential client during a video call told me that I was beautiful. Also, he added that he knew that it’s not professional behaviour. That was a bit disappointing but I didn’t consider this as something disrespectful.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “Yes, there are a few that I would love to see resolved in the nearest feature. I know that there’s still a gap in salaries across genders which make me feel sad since I don’t feel that it’s fair.”
Any other thoughts? “On another note, I’d love to see more female marketers among speakers and blog contributors at the industry leading events and sites. Actually, some time ago I created a survey (view the results here) to build the biggest and most up-to-date list of female marketers so anyone with an event or blog can invite them to take part in their upcoming activity.”
Elise Zareie – Performance Marketing Manager at Miri Growth
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “My experience in Digital Marketing as female has been great so far, not without some struggles but I was lucky to have a fantastic woman manager at the beginning of my career who pushed me to speak up and never let the imposter syndrome get to me (fairly common in women working in male dominated industries). While I’ve never experienced any bias with my internal team, I’ve definitely faced doubt from external clients in the past, who were more trusting of my male coworkers and/or more responsive communication wise. I’m speaking from personal experience but also noticed that same frustration talking with females digital marketers.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I’m also feeling like the DM Industry is a young sector, which fortunately implies that gender equality in the workplace is a greater concern than in other “old school” industries. Although there are still many deep rooted issues regarding gender, whether it’s income, workload or mobility, I’m feeling hopeful for women entering the industry.”
Saranya Rajesh – SEO Engineer at Newlineinfo Corp
“Digital Marketing has been a great platform for me as a female, which made me enhance my thoughts, knowledge, creativity, confidence – which also leads to being a better team player.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “Yes. Personally experienced a lot. Even though we are highly qualified, dedicated, knowledgeable, experienced, as a female we are paid less.
To handle this issue, here’s my advice:
👏🏼 More women to be motivated to step forward
🆕 Guidance on new opportunities in this digital world
🎓 Adopt more digital marketing skills
💭 Expand your knowledge and creativity at every opportunity.
As a female, digital marketing taught me to never ever give up!”
Amy McCutcheon – Digital Marketing Executive at Missy Empire
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “I am fortunate enough to currently work in a primarily female office being in the fashion industry and have actually had no issues in my digital marketing career when in the business/office space.
However, there have been occasions, during networking events or when meeting agency people, where I have seen some men go through the motions. The first is a slight slip on their part, a moment of shock in their expression when hearing my job role. This can then be followed up by some slightly patronising initial conversations where they often ‘mansplain’ certain parts of their roles in ecommerce/digital marketing or what I should be doing. I think what they struggle most with is the idea that it’s not just creative marketing that I handle but it’s data, analytics and strategising. Sometimes I do feel like legally blonde and I’ve just turned up in a pink suit to a room of suited men who make snap judgements (which if I’m honest, I actually do often wear a pink suit to these things).
To their credit, I do also often see the change in these men, they become flummoxed, almost impressed once we have talked longer as they begin to understand the scope of what I work on and we begin to share ideas together.
I’d like to reinforce though this is not all men, in fact it has been very few in my career. I’ve been lucky enough to work with men who are progressive enough to respect a good mind for being just that.”
As a female, how has your experience in Digital Marketing been? “I have enjoyed my experience as a digital marketer so far, to be honest I feel the impact as a female may not be too big, my classes in my masters course were very evenly split in terms of gender. I now work as the marketing coordinator or a company where I am the entire marketing department, where I was interviewed by two men. The office is very male-dominated and I often work closely with the all-male sales team (there is a very large pay gap between me and them but I might say this is the role over the gender). In my position, I am well respected by my superiors – being the managing director and Sales manager.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry & how can we improve on those issues? “The issue does not lie in just the digital marketing field. As a female office worker I do feel I am overlooked by my male peers, often the sales team treat me as more of their secretary/assistant than their colleague. My managing director is attempting to resolve this by highlighting my importance to the sales team when in meetings and praising me for any leads generated from my campaigns and I feel like this does help.”
Jennifer Sing – Social & Content Marketing Executive at Simply Jobs Boards
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “My experience has been positive! At Simply Jobs Boards we have a brilliant team of marketers who support each other and strive to work collaboratively on a daily basis. We have a female majority here, and everyone’s views are equally respected. It’s a great environment to develop in, regardless of gender.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I haven’t experienced any negativity with regards to gender personally, but I do have a friend who worked as an account manager at a marketing agency a few years ago. She mentioned that her superior would actively go out of his way to discuss his marketing ideas with the male members of the team, despite her being his account manager.”
Danielle Pegg Mowbray – Senior Content Manager at Evolved Search
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “The company I work for now (Evolved Search) are really good. I was the first female they hired and for a while was the only one. They knew that they were missing that female perspective and knowledge that would help their business grow, so it was only a matter of time before they hired more women. There’s actually now more women than men in the business. They also nominated me for a Northern Power Women Award this year. They’re very aware of the culture and how we work together as a team, so if I ever did have a problem and felt it was because of my gender, I’m comfortable enough to say so and know they would take it seriously.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I have worked in other places where the unconscious bias towards men definitely played a part in holding me back. I once worked in a team of several women, where we were referred to as “the witches of Eastwick” by our male boss. For no other reason than we were 3 women in control of a particular area of the business. In other roles, I’ve seen men routinely mentored where women weren’t and my skills, years of experience and qualifications, which included a Post Grad in Online Marketing, ignored, in favour of young men who had just graduated from college and fit their idea of someone they could shape and mould. Someone who would absorb their ideas and opinions with no questions asked.
I’ve been lambasted for asking for a pay rise when my job went from an assistant to a manager, and been told I should be happy to work for free, just for the pleasure of working for that company.
We’re often so used to how things are, that we don’t even question it. But if the roles were reversed and the same “normality” applied to men, it would seem ridiculous. An example of this is when I was once told, by another woman unfortunately, that I should deepen my voice in order to get men to take more notice of me and take my comments seriously. I took this as really helpful advice at the time, but now I look at it and ask myself, can you imagine a man being asked to change the pitch of his voice? No, that would be ridiculous, right?”
How can we improve on those issues? “On the whole, my experience wasn’t great until a few years ago when I joined Evolved, and it definitely depends on the culture and history of the business. At Evolved, we were a start up, able to create things from the ground up and not fight against years and years of tolerated, gender biased behaviour. It’s much harder when you’re in an established place that has created an environment where it’s acceptable to the point that people don’t even realise it’s happening.
I think there are definitely still gender issues in digital marketing and they vary across people and companies. I think we can only address those issues by shining a light on them. We need men to acknowledge them too. And it’s not just within the workplace directly. Things like better maternity and paternity, more flexible working hours, more affordable childcare and pension contributions that don’t suffer if you have a family, etc, all help to create a more equal society, where women don’t constantly have to choose and be punished for whichever choice they make in a way that men don’t need to choose and aren’t punished.
As a female in the industry, I try to keep an eye on other females and highlight any good work that I see being done. But not just in this industry. Any women that inspire me, including artists, writers, scientists, politicians. It’s a much bigger issue than just one industry and women should support each other as much as we can.”
Kate Gresswell – Senior PR & Communications Manager at Silverbean
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “I’ve had a slightly circuitous route into Digital Marketing, in that I started out into PR, drifted into Content and then found myself in Digital Marketing proper, so my experience probably isn’t that typical of women in this sector.
Broadly speaking, however, my experience has been positive. I’ve been lucky enough over the last decade or so to work with some fantastic and inspiring women, who have acted as mentors to me in shaping my career and working out where my real passions lie.
There have been moments of frustration. Been talked over by men in meetings, being disregarded by clients who assume you are just there to make the tea, and the odd awkward comment about women being more ‘people-focused’ and men more ‘strategic.’ I even had an old (male) boss who, during an appraisal, gave me positive feedback for ‘looking nice’!
But these incidents are becoming much rarer. I work in a team now where everyone’s ideas and approaches are valued equally, and where there is a real determination to give everyone the best career possible, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or any other characteristic.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry & if so, how can we improve on those issues? “As a society, we are still beset by gender discrimination, so this is as true in Digital Marketing as it is in any other sector. However, I believe we have an advantage in this industry, in that the workforce are generally curious, creative, progressive people.
Whenever I speak to recent graduates coming into our agency, I have a huge sense of optimism about the future for gender balance in Digital Marketing; to people in their early twenties entering the workplace now, they are determined to shake things up and make sure that the agencies and brands they work at reflect their own values of equality and diversity.
There are some within the industry that need to quickly catch-up or be relegated to the dinosaur graveyard. Provocative ‘banter’ can quickly cross the line into outright sexism, with those who make those kinds of jokes possibly not even realising how retro and outdated they sound. I also think we need to look at the type of lad culture that remains in some sections of the industry; booze-fuelled, lairy nights out may be fun for some, but could be off-putting to those from under-represented backgrounds
Look at your own team and spot the gaps; are women underrepresented? Those from BAME backgrounds? Those who identify as LGBT? If so, think about your team culture and how you can make small steps to attract and recruit a truly diverse bunch of people.
Diverse teams make better teams. A range of voices and opinions round the table are not just a ‘nice to have’ – they’re essential for a successful digital marketing strategy.”
Georgia Gibson – Digital Marketing Manager at Logical Resources FMCG
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “My experience has been really positive so far! I’m only 19, and jumped into a digital marketing apprenticeship straight from sixth form. I was lucky enough to join a phenomenal business that values people on their character, regardless of gender. Unfortunately not everyone is that lucky.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I think there are some issues. There seems to be a lot more men in DM than women. It can be quite intimidating, I remember the induction for my apprenticeship and in a massive class there was only one other girl. For whatever reason a small percentage of people feel that women just aren’t meant for it, which couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve met some amazing marketing ladies whilst at training and it’s great to see how diverse it is. But for some, especially bigger companies, women can’t reach their full potential. Whether it’s a lack of progression opportunities, worrying about what they wear or even having kids. For some businesses there’s a long way to go.”
Any other thoughts? “Lots of people don’t care whether you’re a man or woman, they just want someone who can do the job well and be a great fit within the business.”
Charlie Couch – Co-Founder & Digital Director at Tandem
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “Overall my experience as a woman working in DM has been positive. I’ve been lucky enough to work in places who have employed a number of women. Plus, I really like working with men so DM being a male-dominated industry isn’t an issue with me, my business partner is male 😊. Saying that there have been occasions where I have felt/seen others being treated differently for being women:
🗣️ When attending interviews, there were occasions when I have been asked probing questions about my personal life, which I felt were to see if I had/was planning on having children. I also know some employers who if they had two similar candidates, one male and one female, they’d pick the male for the same reason (less potential time off). This may change with the introduction of shared parental leave but I doubt it.
💭 Another issue is how emotions/stress are perceived differently by gender, men are seen as passionate, women emotional. Nike’s Dream Crazier video highlights this really well “if we show emotion, we’re called dramatic.
📅 All panels at digital events I seen recently have been really heavily male which isn’t helping with the representation of women in the industry.”
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “Coming from a classic PR background I was quite surprised how few women I met in the digital marketing field, when changing jobs. A lot of times I experienced situations like being in a meeting with men only. Even though I never faced any real issues in these situations, I sometimes felt we are lacking diversity and also a broader view on the overall picture.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? “I don’t think there are general gender issues in digital marketing fields as there are chances for all of us and many young women are highly valued experts in the digital marketing field. But, looking at higher positions I do see big gaps indeed. There is a high need for women in leadership or global decision taking positions that we need to tackle!”
Ruth Sturm – Digital Marketing Strategist at Collegis Education
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “I have been lucky enough to have experienced a real, honest excitement by most digital marketing organizations, including male-driven ones, to raise up female voices and opinions. Most of the places I have worked have been thrilled to cultivate female talent.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry? & how can we improve on those issues? “Digital marketing in general tends towards moving fast. That means sometimes we fall into the trap of “whoever talks the loudest and fastest makes the choices.” Due to a bundle of factors, I’ve often seen that role fall to men. I think if we want to see more women in leadership roles, we need to keep being cognizant of the type of communication we value internally, and ensure we’re making room for all different types of people to contribute.”
“Go digital marketing ladies!”
The Social B Team
Charlotte Travers – Training Manager
“I think we are lucky in DM as it is a relatively new industry, there are less gender stereotypes as the positions haven’t been established by specifically men or specifically women. I think we also come across more and more female business owners as clients and suppliers which is fantastic.
Being inspired by women entrepreneurs is really important to me personally and I think sometimes we need to seek this out more than we should. There are lots of motivational speakers or male business owners turned influencers who are talked about a lot in our industry.”
Beth Blake – Digital Marketing Executive
“If we do face any gender issues then I wouldn’t say they’re unique to our industry. I would say that being able to speak confidently about the subject is essential, especially when justifying the value of the work you’ve done for an existing client or pitching to a potential client.
Working for a digital agency, we work with such a range of niche industries and I sometimes wonder if clients consider gender to be more of a factor than it actually is. For instance, does my gender affect my ability to run a marketing campaign aimed at electrical contractors, a primarily male industry? But our work is all about getting into the mindset of the client’s customer base – if you’re good at your job, then your gender, age, background, shouldn’t stop you from doing this skilfully.”
Pooja Shevade – Senior Digital Marketing Executive and Skills & Knowledge Development Lead
“I believe, on a wider scale, gender bias exists in digital marketing in terms of recruiting for job roles as well as specialisms. It is very common to assume that women tend to prefer roles more focussed towards content or social media, and the more analytical roles and data-driven roles would be filled by men.
At every step of the way be it attracting or retaining women employees, there are assumptions and biases that impact recruitment in this industry. But, I think rather than relying on hunches, we should back up decisions using data so that the right candidate is attracted or retained, without gender playing a role in this.”
As a female, how has your experience in digital marketing been? “I have been in countless meetings where I was the only woman. I can say that the female workforce is particularly underrepresented in this sector, especially at more senior levels. I am yet to meet a female head of digital marketing, and this is particularly true in agencies.”
Do you think there are any gender issues in the industry & if so, how can we improve on those issues? “I think females are definitely underrepresented in the industry, as generally they tend to veer towards traditional/offline marketing. I think that perhaps there is a lack in knowledge around digital marketing, people expect it to be the usual computer geeks and spreadsheets, but it is actually so much more than that! General education on the field would help to entice more people in the field.”
Firstly, a massive thank you to all of the amazing women who took part in this!
Secondly, we hope that you found these insights just as interesting as we did. While it’s warming that many female marketers have had excellent experiences and feel comfortable in their working environments, it can’t be ignored that there seems to be trends regarding how some women have been made to feel.
Just like Kate Gresswell stated perfectly, we are in an industry full of curious, creative and progressive people, meaning we really have no excuses for gender bias. And, in the words of Beth Blake, if you’re good at your job, then your gender, age, background, shouldn’t stop you from doing this skillfully.
Fewer women might be drawn into digital marketing roles, but this doesn’t mean that the women who are already in the industry should feel any less valued. It’s 2019 and gender bias should simply not exist. Think about what you say, think about how you value your employees, and understand that everyone is capable of excelling in the career of their choice.