In comparison to the “golden age” of advertising in the 1960s, when the best creative and strategic brand initiatives came from men (because women were only perceived as adequate for secretarial work and bringing coffee to the big guns), today’s women in marketing are a force to be reckoned with. How we got from then to now took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I should know. I’ve been in the business since 1980.
While my early days fell long after those represented in the hit television series “Mad Men,” some of the misconceptions about women’s abilities back then are still evident today, yet tucked under the whispers of men and women at the office Keurig machine. This is what gives rise to the mad women of marketing, and it goes well beyond the #MeToo movement.
Perception of Feminism vs. Actual Roles
“Business is business.” It’s a common philosophy among the successful. But if you are a woman who has been passed over on a promotion or accolade due to gender, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Sure, there are situations when a man has more experience, more formal education, more talent, more entries in his book of business. In this instance, I am speaking to an apples-to-apples scenario. Why then, would a man get the advantage and is that still the case?
While working as an on-air talent, producer and marketing writer at a No. 5 U.S. market FM radio broadcast company, I was an integral part of a team saddled with going through the ratings reports when they came in.
During one intense session that took us in to the wee hours of the morning, we broke to stretch our legs. Nonetheless, I stayed at the conference room table, as did our boss who sat across from me.
I mused to myself for a moment, taking note of how everyone in the group, except for the boss, was a female. So I asked, “Why is everyone in here a woman?” He smiled and without hesitation responded, “Because if you want something done and you want it done right, ask a woman.”
At that moment, I thought it was an empowering thing to say. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind. It took me a while, and with more career disappointments under my belt, some sexual assaults on the job, a divorce and a real understanding about how strong women in marketing threaten an entire vocational culture, I finally get it. And if you don’t just yet, let me help.
“Marketing requires intricate attention to detail and organized processes to
execute a strategic campaign…because it’s evolving by the minute. It’s about telling
a story, building a brand with compassion and reaching business goals as an empowered team.”
Lacey Bertnick, SEO Director, Eminent SEO
Women in Marketing Experience Sexism
Back to what my old boss said about his favored choice in hiring women. The following facts illustrate the truths that led to his hiring preference:
- Single moms make up a large portion of the workforce.
- Many single moms must work.
- They can take a pay cut due to item No. 2 above.
I fit the profile. Many of my coworkers over the years have fit the profile as well. If you don’t, you probably know someone who does.
Aggressive or Driven?
When a corporation looks to promote from within, the one awarded with the title can be a result of a singular characteristic or a myriad of them. Seniority, ability, an internal reorganization or the infuriating “it’s who you know” offer some of the reasoning.
Though when it comes to a woman in the position of a possible promotion, the following factors are taken into account:
- The effect on others within the company
- Industry and public perception (if it’s a high-profile opportunity)
- How the candidate will respond
Oh yeah, and there’s that important subject known as pay rate. Are these also the terms of consideration when a male is contemplated for hire? It depends.
According to MarketingWeek.com, the “pay gap between male and female marketers
has widened from 20.8% in 2016 to 22.4% in 2017,” favoring men.
You’ve probably heard that a man with wisps of gray hair is distinguished, while a woman is old. When a woman is in a position of power, she is often viewed as a bitch. For a man, he is simply driven.
“A woman who is outspoken and assertive in the workplace would be
perceived as overly demanding, whereas a man exhibiting
the same characteristics would be praised for his passion or tenacity.”
Nicola Yap, Organic Marketing Strategist, Eminent SEO
Unfortunately, this isn’t the intellectual skew beholden to men only. Some women share this ideology, which is self-defeating in the quest to climb the corporate ladder in marketing. But times are changing.
“Women are changing the way consumers feel about
brands with more cause marketing and less sex appeal.”
Jessica Feldman, Digital Marketing Specialist, Eminent SEO
The Good Ol’ Boys Club Is Dead
Nothing can be more frustrating to a woman in sales, marketing or creative than coming up with a great promotion, product positioning or ad campaign and then presenting it to a male supervisor only to get it passed on to the decision maker as if the idea came from him – the man.
“When I first started working in digital marketing, it was an ‘old boys club’ and
they weren’t too happy to see a girl step in. My male coworkers wanted me to fail,
left me out of important meetings and memos. I was ridiculed, harassed and talked down to,
paid less and given fewer opportunities than the men. It’s part of why I started my own company.
No one should put up with daily sexism just to earn a buck. I hope to help change that.”
Jenny Stradling, Founder and CEO, Eminent SEO
Some women got tired of the disrespect and mistreatment. Instead, they broke the rules and formed their own marketing agencies, tipping the uneven scales of an industry to make a decades-long wrong, right. In Arizona, I’ve had the privilege of working with two great female business owners in marketing communications, Carrie Martz of the Martz Agency and Jenny Stradling of Eminent SEO.
The Tide Is Turning
The “Mad Men” show was engaging with solid storylines and on-target acting. Perhaps part of its allure and strong audience following is that it served to remind us where we (women) started in marketing and how far we’ve come. In fact, we have arrived.
“If you want to create a successful multi-channel campaign, get a woman to help you.
She can use her insight to attract many others from the female realm. It’s like using the ‘Girl Code.’”
Danielle Knox, Creative Director, Eminent SEO
Now that there is immense public outcry regarding racism, gender-bashing, safe spaces and equality in all forms, the mad women of marketing can take a load off, put their feet up and bask in the glory of our force in the business community. A fun example is a new TV ad campaign for Overstock.com that pits a man against a woman.
Mad Women of Eminent SEO and Others Represent Well
Creative business industries such as advertising, design and marketing have been known for bucking tradition with more flexible guidelines in where we work and how we work. Ours is an industry that can easily connect the most intriguing and successful initiatives with a truly collaborative environment. For example, Thrive Marketing just opened its doors to a new, women-focused working space in Gilbert, Arizona.
The end of silo office environments, strict organizational hierarchies, and the 8-to-5 business models have shifted across many industries, but started in marketing. Remote work, shared work shifts, and team achievements have much to do with women in marketing, because to survive, we had to be flexible.
Juggling family obligations, meeting client deadlines and staying current with industry trends requires a flexible and scalable business model, especially for women. Now many companies have adopted these pathways, supporting women more than ever before.
In final thought, remember: A scorned woman hath no fury (laughing), but we do a hell of a job!