By Danielle Scott, Sales Manager of digital marketing agency, Climb Online

Marketing has traditionally been a male-dominated space. Women account for just 37% of leadership roles in media and communications industries globally, despite making up nearly half [48%] of the total workforce, and while women have increasingly carved out a bigger space in these industries, there is still much to be done to achieve effective representation.

Digital marketing is a dynamic industry, and, especially at the leadership level, requires a mixture of business acumen, tech-savviness and creativity, we are seeing women in these roles systematically dismantle gender stereotypes and excel at this kind of work.

Against the campaign theme of “Inspiring Inclusion” for this year’s International Women’s Day, we explore how this relates to the role of women in digital marketing leadership and tech industries more broadly, and how increasing female inclusion in both marketing and digital sectors as a whole has the power to change those industries for the better.

The value of female perspectives in marketing

It has become de rigueur to discuss female leadership in terms of emotional intelligence and empathy. While these are important skills for all leaders irrespective of gender, it’s important to be aware of the potential consequences of using gender-loaded terms such as these, which can have the unintended effect of reinforcing certain stereotypes around female leadership and traditional approaches to divisions of labour and leadership roles.

Instead, it’s useful to consider the complex skillsets industries such as digital marketing require, and how female perspectives intersect with these skills. Take for example the unprecedented lead women have taken on social media. One study found that over 68% of social media influencers are women, and as marketers look for new ways to engage and connect with audiences in authentic ways, it’s unsurprising that women have become trailblazers in a space which values community building and connection through authentic storytelling. Women have been building communities around themselves for centuries, and with the advent of social media, it appears women have transferred this inclination to digital communities, giving them a competitive edge when it comes to harnessing the potential of these platforms.

Similarly, as marketing becomes more diverse, and consumers demand higher standards from marketers, women in the sector are more able to draw from their own experience to steer inclusive strategies and market to women in more ethical and authentic ways. It’s not just a matter of ethics and representation, either – it makes real business sense. Research found that two thirds of UK women would skip ads that they felt were negatively stereotyping women, while 85% thought that advertising and marketing did a poor job of depicting real women. This is indicative of a problem many digital marketers are facing in positively engaging with half of the population, in no small part because of the lack of representation within their own industry.

Promoting female visibility in technical industries

Setting women up for success in tech-driven sectors like digital marketing starts in childhood. A purported lack of female interest in STEM-related subjects at school is a complex issue that in part relates to stereotypes that are often unintentionally foisted on girls at a young age.

A study from Code First Girls and NatWest found that three quarters of women from lower socio-economic backgrounds were not encouraged to pursue tech-related careers in school, which in turn puts women on the backfoot when it comes to leadership roles in these industries. Implicit gender biases such as these can have a particularly damaging effect on girls and young women, impacting and shaping their career ambitions from a very young age.

Women who do enter industries like digital marketing often face exclusionary cultures in male-dominated environments, resulting in additional invisible barriers when it comes to climbing the career ladder. It is unsurprising then, that the same study cited that women listed “preconceptions of the industry being for men” as one of the biggest barriers to entry for tech roles.

A lack of visible female role models is central to this perceived barrier, and increasingly we are seeing female trailblazers in digital marketing and more widely throughout technology sectors serve not only as successful leaders in their own right, but also as positive role models paving the way for other women in their respective industries. Women in leadership positions, therefore, understand the importance of supporting one another in navigating traditionally male-dominated fields through effective mentorship, as well as the value in allowing women to be more visible in leadership roles.

Inspiring inclusion in digital marketing

Digital marketing represents a unique pairing of both creative and technical skillsets, and as such, thrives on fresh perspectives and innovation, with inclusion being at the heart of this.

Amplifying the voices and perspectives of women in the industry, and in turn, ensuring women already within leadership positions are seen helps to combat preconceptions of male-dominated industries while providing access to female role models to motivate and inspire the next generation of women in marketing.

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