How the gender pay gap impacts female marketers’ career progression

The gender pay gap still prevails and the marketing profession is in no way immune, with men earning more than women in almost every role.  

The gender pay gap, and its effect on female progression in business, is a pervasive and persistent problem that shows no signs of abating. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average gender pay gap for full-time female workers has been stuck at 14.1% for the past three years. The gender pay gap for women in their 20s is five times greater than it was six years ago and as it stands the pay gap means that from 10 November 2017 – Equal Pay Day – women were in effect working for free for the rest of last year.

The marketing profession is in no way immune. According to the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, released last October, the average pay gap for marketing and sales directors is 12%, while the average pay gap for marketing associate professionals is 17.4%. The ONS defines the gender pay gap as the difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings based on a percentage of men’s earnings.

A more detailed picture emerges from the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey 2018, a study of 4,154 marketers across 24 different industries, ranging from graduates to board directors. In all cases marketers were asked to give their basic wage, excluding bonuses and benefits.

READ MORE: Salary Survey 2018 – The best sectors to work in

Data gathered from the sample finds female marketers earn less than male marketers in every sector and in every role, except that of marketing assistant. This is the only time in her career a female marketer will earn a higher amount than a male marketer, taking home 10% more, with an average salary of £22,209 versus £20,250.

The best-paid industries for male marketers are FMCG (average salary £71,974), health and pharmaceuticals (£69,563), and gaming and gambling (£67,667). The best-paid industries for women are FMCG (£48,242) gaming and gambling (£45,536) and the financial sector (£45,234). So even in FMCG, the category where women stand to earn the most, men take home an additional £23,000 more on average.

At the other end of the spectrum, the poorest-paying sector for male marketers is charity/not-for-profit (£42,807), while the construction and property sector is the lowest-paying category for female marketers (£36,188). So in their worst-paying sector, male marketers earn over £6,000 a year on average more than the worst-paid female marketers.

According to our research, the largest gender pay gap is in the health and pharmaceuticals industry at 41%, followed by entertainment (37%), consumer electronics (36%), industry/trade body (36%) and travel and transportation (36%).

The industries with the smallest gender pay gaps are charity/not-for-profit (14%), followed by the education sector (21%), construction/property (24%), retail, wholesale and ecommerce (24%), and travel and leisure (24%).

The gap persists

As female marketers ascend the career ladder, the gender pay gap is just as prevalent. The research shows it is biggest for owners/partners (32%) and board directors (22%). By contrast, the smallest gender pay gap is for junior managers at 2%.

Compared with 2017, the gender pay gap has narrowed by two percentage points for junior marketing executives, three points for owners/partners, four points for junior managers and seven points for marketing directors/vice-presidents. The gender pay gap has, however, widened over the past year for female board directors (18 points) and team managers (eight points).

Brands director at Direct Line Group Kerry Chilvers says the gender pay gap cannot be ignored and is just one element of reaching true equality in leadership roles. The gender split of marketing managers and directors at Direct Line is around two-thirds female.

Whether it is closing the pay gap or having balanced succession planning, Chilvers believes it is crucial that businesses make it as easy for a woman to work their way up through an organisation as it is for a man.

READ MORE: Salary Survey 2018 – The best and worst paid industries

“This is a persistent conversation and the onus is that we need to actually do something about it,” she says. “Last year, we signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, which is a Government and financial services-driven initiative to promote women into leadership roles, and we’re one of the first insurance companies to do that.”

A strong believer that there should be no difference in the wage package linked to any role based on gender, Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs sees the gender pay gap relating in large part to the lack of women in marketing leadership roles. That is why getting more female marketing leaders at the top table is crucial.

Reflecting on the 24% pay gap in the travel and leisure sector, he is surprised it is not much tighter. “It’s not my experience, I don’t remember a conversation where it’s this package if a man is promoted into a role, or it’s this package if it’s a woman.”

It’s really important for people not to assume they don’t have a problem, when maybe they do.

Gavin Sheppard, Smart Energy GB

This opinion is shared by Hiscox global brand director Annabel Venner. “We get CVs from female and male candidates and when they talk about the salaries they’re on I don’t see a significant pay gap at all.

“I’ve got a fairly good feel for what the marketers are paid across Hiscox and again there is not that much of a difference at all in terms of the pay, whether they are male or female. This completely takes me by surprise,” she adds.

Venner argues that the gender pay gap problem is more widespread than just marketing and that regardless of gender it is important to understand your value in the marketplace. To ensure fairness, Hiscox externally benchmarks roles in order to better understand what a particular position pays across the industry.

“When you’re going for a new role you need to be armed with knowledge of what this role should pay. I know the first question everyone will ask you is what are you currently on [but rather than answering that] you could say I’m looking for X. So part of it is about having that conversation and challenging the business, or whoever is doing the recruitment, to say what the role is paying,” Venner adds.

Although the salary survey findings do not reflect the personal experience of Smart Energy GB marketing director Gavin Sheppard, he acknowledges that there clearly is a gender pay gap problem.

“That’s a problem for society and it needs to be dealt with at society level, but as marketers we have got an opportunity. Look at Unilever’s work on equality in advertising; it has been able to prove that equality actually drives commercial results,” says Sheppard.

 “You can take the same assumption and apply it to the make-up of marketing teams. Marketing has a real opportunity to be proactive and that means companies looking at their own data, identifying gaps and being active about addressing them.”

Sheppard acknowledges the real danger of unconsciously inheriting and embedding pre-existing inequalities. The clearest case of this would be when a woman applies for a role and has to disclose her current wage, which could already be lower than it should be. Even if the new employer offers her an increase, working off the previous wage could perpetuate any existing inequalities.

“I’m not the slightest bit interested in what anybody has been paid in the past. We set a salary for what we think that job is worth and we pay the successful candidate what we said the job was worth,” Sheppard explains.

“It’s little things like that, over time, that will start to address [the pay gap issue]. And it’s important to look honestly. When all the gender pay gap stuff came up a while ago at the BBC, the first thing I said to my HR team was ‘let me look at the data and just make sure that we haven’t missed something by mistake’. That’s really important for people not to assume they don’t have a problem, when maybe they do.”

Differing priorities

When analysing marketers’ motivations for moving roles, the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey finds 55.1% of men are quite or very happy in their current role, compared to 54.2% of women.

Of those thinking of leaving their current position, 68.8% of men would move for better financial remuneration compared with 63% of women.

Leaving their current role because of limited opportunities is more of a motivation for women (38.6%) than men (35%). Furthermore, 21.5% of female marketers say they would leave their role for the chance of flexible working, versus 12.3% of men.

Although some women may decide to stay in their roles for longer, and it might be easier to secure a significant pay rise by changing jobs, it is simplistic to assume that organisations are actively paying men more than women, says Venner.

“There may be an element of some women saying, I value flexible working more than I do a 5% to 10% pay rise, therefore I will go to work in a role or for a business that allows me that flexibility; [a role that] isn’t demanding that I work all [available] hours and at the weekends; and actually I can work at home one day a week or my core hours are 10am-4pm,” she explains.

“You will have a proportion of women who are making that choice and some men will want to make that choice, but it will only be contributing to a small part of it.”

This is a persistent conversation and the onus is that we need to actually do something about it.

Kerry Chilvers, Direct Line Group 

Although there could be an element of male and female marketers having different priorities, Ryanair’s Jacobs suggests the difference between men and women moving for more money is not that big.

“I don’t think it means women, in terms of making moves, are saying it’s all about flexibility and the family. They are still primarily motivated by money and that’s a good thing,” he argues. “This is the normalising of the decision-making mindset of male and female marketing professionals when it comes to making their next move.”

Jacobs believes both men and women should be pushing for more money if they think they’re worth it and then it is up to their company to reflect that. However, if they’re not worth it, people have to be prepared to hear ‘no’, he adds.

READ MORE: Thomas Barta – You should never ask for a promotion

The assumption that women care less about their salaries than men is a fallacy, says Sheppard, who does not agree the problem lies with women not being good enough at negotiating.

“I’m sure that women value themselves and their contributions to organisations just as much as men. But we all have a responsibility to understand the forces that could prevent women negotiating hard, like the risk of being labelled bossy or difficult,” he states.

“On this sort of point you could say men versus women or you could equally say introverted versus extroverted. It’s wrong if you rely on the character of the individual, male or female, to be the overriding contribution to what they get paid. It’s about a business saying, ‘this is the role we need, this is the value to us of that in our sector’, and then making sure that you pay that and not just to the people who shout loudest.” 

Within the utilities sector – which has an average 33% pay gap – Sheppard points to a number of female marketing leaders who are role models to young marketers, such as British Gas director of brand marketing Margaret Jobling, E.ON marketing and communications director Belinda Moore or Sheppard’s deputy director of marketing at Smart Energy GB, Claire Howes.

Creating an environment where women can become marketing leaders starts with organisations ensuring they have a gender-neutral salary structure, the only way to truly embed equality.

“I don’t know any senior manager in any discipline, certainly not in marketing, who sits back and goes ‘I know that we pay women less and I’m totally happy with that’,” says Sheppard.

“I’m sure that everybody believes or allows themselves to be convinced that they are getting it right, but you need to self-check and challenge yourself to ensure that you’re making the right decisions.”  

  • The 2018 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey analysed the responses of 4,154 marketers from 24 different industries including agencies and consultancies, the automotive sector, entertainment, FMCG, financial, telecoms, sport and travel. The seniority of the respondents ranged from graduates and marketing assistants to senior managers, board directors and partners. This is a nationwide sample of UK marketers, including digital specialists. In all cases relating to pay marketers were asked to give their basic wage, excluding bonuses and benefits.