rosie the rivetter, girl power

By Rachel Mepham, Head of Digital at Digital Clarity

I am not a feminist.

I am an average female who works hard, worries about what I look like, what to wear, what I say and how I come across. I also happen to be Head of Digital at boutique agency, Digital Clarity. That isn’t an easy role and with the title comes pressures to sell, manage, coordinate and communicate at a high level.

Over 15 years I have seen the shift in digital marketing, especially search marketing. Going from an IT and technical strategy to a combination of tech, creativity, content, strategy, maths and algorithms, reporting and communication. Digital Clarity was one of the first agencies to translate the tech talk and complex algorithms of search into marketing talk.

One of the biggest shifts within this space has been male vs female roles within the industry.

Marketing and sales were originally dominated by men. Digital marketing brought changes with women leaders at the top, Kate Burns the first MD of Google UK, Christine Walker heading up Walker Media…etc… but 90 per cent of the stakeholders I was pitching were men.

When I started in this business, I am not ashamed to say, I hated sales. I was an account manager. What I didn’t realise at the time, was I actually hated my view of what a sales person was: male with slicked back hair, shiny shoes and a tight-fitting suit. I certainly wasn’t that, but I was meeting clients and media owners every week and selling the service, the value we were adding, the new opportunities and most importantly – selling me. I was actually quite good as a ‘non-sales person’ doing the sell.

However, there were and still are times where the row of men opposite you who you are pitching, are already decided that the male pitch before you (even with a much more basic pitch), was better, why? Because it was a guy.

I have sat in meetings and pitches holding all the cards. I had the knowledge, the answers, the solutions, yet the male colleague next to me was getting all the eye contact, all the questions directed their way and to be frank, I have been made to feel I should not be in the meeting at all.

So, ladies, how can we manage these kinds of situations and put some girl power back in our bloodstream!

  1. Clear your head. You are in that pitch or meeting for a reason. You have been requested to pitch or put forward to pitch or earned the pitch yourself. So have confidence in yourself.
  2. Realise that not all men are prejudiced. Think about it, on a day to day basis, how many men do you come across who are against women vs how many female bitches have you come across in your life. I am pretty sure I have been backstabbed by a woman more times than a man has discriminated against me.
  3. Things are changing. Although my point above says not all men are nobs, some definitely are. Some men are simply unable to accept female leadership and they comply to their stereotype. I have on many occasions been made to feel inadequate or inferior due to the behaviour of male company owners, MD’s and CEO’s etc… but I strongly feel things are changing. The enterprise and corporate businesses are having to look for diversity, and the SMB’s are having to hire the best person for the job in order to be successful. I am totally against giving people jobs just to tick a race, gender or age box, but I do think everyone should be allowed a crack at the whip. The interview process should be a level playing field for all, then the best go through, no matter who they are and the same goes for pitches. May the best person win.
  4. Be the best. It’s a much more even playing field than a 100m sprint. Men should be no better at selling than women. In fact, there is research to say that in more consultative sales women have the upper hand as it comes down to listening and engaging in conversation rather than pushy sales techniques. Have confidence and bring your A game to that pitch, don’t lose it because you didn’t do the hard work.
  5. If you are unlucky enough to have a male chauvinist in the stakeholder line up then sometimes you have to do what you have to do. If appropriate call him out in front of the others, even if you don’t win the pitch you will leave being memorable and may change a mindset or two.
  6. Be YOUR best. We can’t all win at everything, we can’t be the best at everything and we certainly can’t do it all the time. So rather than comparing yourself to others constantly, compare yourself to who you were yesterday! (Borrowed from Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules of life) See the progress you have made as an individual, the challenges you have overcome, the things you have achieved and put into perspective who you are compared to YOU.

If only I did this more often, the pitches and talks and presentations I have done would be delivered without constant self-doubt and questioning whether I was good enough. I am. You are. We just need a little more belief and we can nail it!

About the author

With over 15 years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Rachel heads up the team at Digital Clarity.
With a history in Paid Search (PPC) since before Google AdWords existed, Rachel is regarded by both clients and peers as one of the most experienced women in the digital space in the UK. Her approach and application to digital strategy planning has been used by some of the biggest brands as well the leading advertising and marketing agencies.