That advice, from senior female marketers, comes after research from specialist marketing recruiter EMR found men are twice as likely to reach the top marketing positions than women.
The gender gap also stretches to pay, where male marketers are more likely to receive higher salaries and bonuses than their female counterparts. And this is all despite 75 per cent of the marketing population comprised by female professionals, with EMR suggesting childbirth may the reason for the split.
Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), says the CIM’s own research conducted 18 months ago, using ONS data, found the ratio to be a 55:45 female/male split – although there are still considerable gaps towards the more senior level roles.
She says marketing as a profession is better represented by women than most other industries, but that there is “no room for complacency” and there should be “no stigma in going to HR”.
“We should encourage people to ask questions, we have got to be less shy about that. And without going into the gender stereotype, if you’re a confident, successful marketer and confident about your ability you should be equally confident in asking ’am I being paid the same as a male [would be in my position]’,” Godfrey adds.
WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) vice president and Maxus UK CEO Lindsay Pattison says inequality at the top goes beyond business and is a “societal issue”. Some women who work fewer than five days a week to look after children can receive “push back” from others within their organisation, for example.
Pattison says one antidote would be for employers to offer more flexible working. She cites Barclays, which offers women with children the opportunity of coming in four days a week and working longer hours but being paid the same wage as if they were in the office Monday to Friday. She feels women business leaders should also call on the Government to offer more affordable levels of sponsored childcare, as an example.
Indeed, the growing demands of working parents and the rise of career break women is one of the reasons why My Family Care and Clarion Events partnered to launch the first ever “Work & Family Show”, due to take place at the ExCel next February. It will showcase family services, host lifestyle workshops and will feature speakers from the Government’s Women’s Business Council.
Beyond the time women can physicially spend at work, there are other issues holding them back from progressing in their careers. Pattison says: “When women are ambitious they are often described as ‘bossy’. Being competitive for a woman is a negative thing and is seen as being ‘pushy’, but for a man it’s normal and ‘successful’. Women have to try harder to prove they are just as good as or better than men.”
She advises women should make clear from the start their KPIs so they can deal in “facts” when proving their success to the management and talk about the “I” rather than “we”, moving away from the natural instinct of women to always be “team players”.
Christina Ioannidis, chief engagement officer at female-focused specialist marketing agency and consultancy and author of “Your Loss: How To Win Back Your Female Talent” says corporations should embrace “flexibility of attitude” not only in offering employees a promise of a good work life balance but also changing attitudes around things such as career breaks, which “should be embraced”. A lauded example of an employer with a “flexible attitude” is Google, which offer employees 20 per cent of their working time to work on projects of personal interest, which is how products like Gmail were created.
The issue of not having women at the top of organisations can severely affect companies’ ability to communicate to women, Ioannadis adds.
She says: “We should get the message out there flexibility is not just a women issue. Women and Generation Y have a lot in common. Generation Y is looking for fulfilment and satisfaction, rather than perhaps men of previous generations when money has been the main driver. Companies should look at future proofing their business to push away from stereotypes.”
“A lot of companies have issues in marketing to women consumers and it comes full circle. When you lose female talent it impacts on your understanding of how to market to women and you can lose touch with your customer base. It has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of women don’t feel like they are listened to,” she says.
Godfey, Pattison and Ioannidis all disagreed with the notion that there should be a quota of females on any given board or marketing team as it has the danger of stigmatising people. However, just because women leave companies, it does not mean they are bringing down the quota of senior female marketers in the UK as many go on to start their own businesses – which Ioannidis says should be seen an opportunity for companies to bring them back on board as potential suppliers or consultants.
Godfrey concludes: “The nature of the marketing profession and the wide range of skills you can choose to have and develop means it’s not as simple as [women being less likely to become CMOs]. Some people don’t want to be board directors and choose the consultancy route, for example, and that should be celebrated.”