Salary Survey 2019: Brands’ sluggish response to the gender pay gap is failing female marketers

The annual Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey shows that despite brands making some progress the gender pay gap in marketing persists for every sector and level of seniority.

gender pay gapDespite pressure mounting on organisations to accelerate their efforts to close the gender pay gap there is still a long way to go to redress the balance and tackle the systematic underpayment of women.

The International Labour Organisation’s 2018/2019 Global Wage Report calculates that the UK has one of the biggest average differences in real monthly wages between men and women in high income earning countries at 36.3%. The only counties that perform worse are The Netherlands and South Korea. Government statistics published in April 2018 put the median UK gender pay gap across all employees in Britain at 17.9%.

On Equal Pay Day (10 November), the day in the year when women effectively start to work for free due to the pay gap, The Fawcett Society revealed 33% of women and 35% of men in work did not know it is illegal to pay men and women differently for equal work.

Sadly the marketing industry is by no way exempt, with women earning less than men across every sector and at every level of seniority, according to the 2019 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey.

The survey of 4,415 marketers finds that the pay gap is at its smallest for roles such as marketing assistant (1%), marketing manager (5%) and marketing executive (6%). The percentage represents how much less women are paid in comparison to men.

We’re failing as an industry to highlight all the women who are doing incredible jobs, because they’ve just got a different style.

Philippa Snare, Facebook

The gap widens to 12% for a senior marketing executive, 11% for a junior manager and 14% for a senior marketing manager, director or vice president.

In fact, the more senior female marketers become, the bigger the gender pay gap. The percentage rises to 30% for a board director and 39% for an owner or partner. The gender bias continues all the way to the board, where if there is a marketer at all it is more likely to be a man than a woman (54.5% versus 45.5%).

It was a similar story in 2018 when the biggest pay gap was for owners/partners (32%) and board directors (22%). By contrast, the smallest gender pay gap was for junior managers at 2%.

“It bugs me when people say ‘what do we need to do to get more women in positions of power?’. Just bloody hire them,” states Philippa Snare, head of the EMEA marketing group at Facebook.

“That’s all you need to do, just put them in the job. They might not turn up as the best interview candidate because they might be nervous, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do the job. What’s the worst thing that happens? If it doesn’t work out then hire somebody else.”

She believes that having more women in more senior positions should be an ongoing pursuit for every business and role modelling is particularly important. However, Snare argues that women in senior positions within businesses tend to be less visible, often because they are less likely to get a lot of coverage in the media.

“We’re failing as an industry to highlight all the women who are doing incredible jobs, because they’ve just got a different style. They don’t speak in soundbites, so they don’t get as much coverage as a result,” Snare adds.

READ MORE: Salary Survey 2019 – The best (and worst) paid sectors for marketers


Rebalancing the gender pay gap has a lot to do with opportunity and the confidence, agrees Sarah Wood, former marketing director at Edgewell Personal Care. She argues that women should never undersell themselves when going into wage reviews or interviews for a new role.

Furthermore, Wood believes that senior roles need to come with a greater level of flexibility so women know that, regardless of whether they have children or other family commitments, the job will work for them. This would make women feel more confident taking on senior positions.

“There are great examples of companies that are really good at getting the work/life balance right, but there’s definitely a broader opportunity for people to feel confident going for these bigger roles because they’re very capable of doing them,” says Wood.

Encouraging transparency

A lack of transparency in the workplace could be perpetuating the problem. The Fawcett Society research from November finds that 61% of workers would be uncomfortable asking a colleague how much they earn. This breaks down to 53% of women and 47% of men, with over half of those surveyed (52%) saying their managers would respond negatively to more openness.

The level of dissatisfaction being felt by marketers is clear. The Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey reveals that over half of female marketers (55.9%) believe their companies are not good or not good at all at providing fair financial rewards, compared to 47.1% of men. This is despite the fact that receiving fair financial rewards is very important to 68.3% of women and 66.2% of men.

Snare has found herself coaching more women on issues around self-esteem and having the confidence to be pragmatic about asking for a pay rise. She explains that Facebook does a lot of work around cognitive diversity and examining the different ways – regardless of gender – people approach such issues.

As a leader she believes it is her responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable having these conversations.

“It’s about going, ‘I feel really awkward about this situation, but I don’t know how to handle it, can I just say what I think?’. I’d love to see more companies thinking about cognitive diversity and how they’re going to create these environments where it doesn’t matter what style you have you can still address the topic,” Snare explains.

This opinion is echoed by Microsoft consumer marketing director, Paul Davies. He believes marketers should be leading the way in closing pay gaps and celebrating genuine diversity of thought given they work in such a forward-looking, ideas-led discipline dependent on different perspectives to succeed.

“We know that progressive thinking and action will enable us to benefit from greater diversity, which then creates a richer, more vibrant working environment, and ultimately leads to greater performance,” says Davies.

Level playing field?

The Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey data reveals that the gender pay gap within marketing persists across businesses of all sizes. The gap is at its highest in companies of over 250-plus people at 28%, followed by one- to nine-person businesses (24%) and those with 10 to 49 people (21%), and at its lowest in companies of 50 to 249 people (14%).

The beauty industry emerged as the sector with the biggest pay gap of 57%, followed by fashion (53%) and consumer electronics (50%). The industries arguably performing best in terms of equality are sport (24%), charity/not-for-profit (28%) and construction/property (30%) and the public sector (30%). Across all sectors the average pay gap is 38%.

The fact the gender pay gap per sector is still 24% at its lowest is a source of disappointment to Andi Sumner, head of marketing at baby food brand Babease. She can see that while change is afoot, a lot more needs to be done to make it a 50/50 world given that marketers often inherit the pay structures defined by employees who have gone before.

READ MORE: The best paid sectors and the persistent pay gap – What 20 years of Salary Survey data reveals

Wood insists that regardless of company size or sector every role should be externally benchmarked to ensure organisations take a gender neutral approach to recruitment irrespective of the individual’s previous wage.


“Look at the value of the role to make sure that you’re paying the market rate and then of course what comes into this is people’s experience,” she explains.

“Even if you’re promoting internally, look at their experience. What’s their performance history? Are they regularly exceeding their objectives? It should be this perfect formula that then delivers what the salary is and the package as well.”

Aside from the potential of inheriting a gender bias during the hiring process, childbirth still has a massive impact on women’s relative earning potential according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The pay gap between mothers and fathers (based on mean hourly earnings) is 10% before the birth of their first child, widening to 30% by the time their child is aged 13.

Sumner believes change will come if companies recognise that you cannot have it all and acknowledge the guilt parents feel. She argues that maternity leave should be de-gendered across all companies and called parental leave in acknowledgement of the fact it can be shared by both the mother and the father.

Flexible working should also be extended to everyone in a business, regardless of whether they are a parent or not, meaning that it is not an “us and them” attitude, adds Sumner. This means parents would not feel like they are the only ones missing out on ‘face time’ by choosing to work flexibly.

There are huge efficiency gains to be realised as employees are empowered to work in ways that are suitable for them, generating better results.

Paul Davies, Microsoft

“There’s still an element of face time going on in businesses where you might be getting the work done, but no one can see you do it, so did you do it? And are you being acknowledged for doing it?” she explains.

“A lot of work needs to go into understanding what actual flexible working is and how it can work to the benefit of the employees, as well as the business. Something needs to change and it needs to change quickly, because we’re only becoming more and more aware these days of how we feel and what our priorities are.”

Wood insists that senior management need to recognise the importance of flexibility to new generations coming through the ranks and appreciate that there’s not just one way of approaching the world of work.

READ MORE: How to address the challenges of flexible working

“Look at all the work we’ve done on Generation Z and understanding what’s important to them. Other things are more important and things are getting more complicated,” she explains.

“It’s these other benefits about feeling developed, involved, learning, the culture. It’s not just about companies paying lots of money, it’s about getting that balance right.”

Davies argues that as an industry marketing should push for gender balance across teams, regardless of level. The focus should be on achieving more flexible working models to create an accessible and contemporary working environment that helps everyone do their very best work.

He reports seeing a “huge shift” away from “old-school presenteeism” towards people being assessed on deliverables, outcomes and their impact, which in part is being powered by the rise of hot-desking. Davies describes this as a positive trend that will hopefully achieve greater parity for all.

“There are huge efficiency gains to be realised as employees are empowered to work in ways that are suitable for them, generating better results. But it requires a progressive, trusting, forward-thinking culture to make it work,” he adds.

See below the full list of gender pay gaps per sector.


READ MORE: How marketing salaries stack up in 2019