It’s Time to Close the Marketing Industry Gender Gap

It’s Time to Close the Marketing Industry Gender Gap
September 17, 2015 PROSAR

[Part 1 of a 3-part series on women in marketing]

Professional women are often told that if there’s a will, there’s a way. If we seek to climb the corporate ladder, all that’s required of us is to “lean in,” as Sheryl Sandberg says.

Assuredly, there are many women seizing high-powered positions in marketing across government and industry sectors – which is fantastic. But as an increasing amount of evidence indicates, there is still a serious gender imbalance holding us back from an equal division of leadership in the field.

Unfortunately, there are no signs of improvement on the horizon.

Women make up over 80% of all household purchasing decisions, thusly holding the vast majority of purchasing power in the Western world. As a result, we make up the largest primary target audience for the world’s largest marketing campaigns.

Ironically, 91% of women say that they feel misunderstood by marketers. Seems rather counterintuitive then, that the gender pay gap in this industry is still widening rather than narrowing, when women are the ones this industry aims to speak loudest to.

Gender pay gap persistence

Here in Canada, the gender pay gap is still more than twice the global average.

Canadian working women are making about $8,000 less a year than their male counterparts in identical industries. Reportedly, the marketing industry is no exception to this widening gap.

Earlier this summer, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their second annual report on The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2015, which provides a snapshot of gender inequality in a range of areas throughout Canada’s twenty largest metropolitan areas – one area being economic security including gender gaps in employment and pay.

Interestingly, the worst ranked region in the country was Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo; an area that has seen a remarkable economic tech boom for start-ups since the advent of Blackberry Inc.

According to the CCPA report (mentioned and linked above), Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge has one of the biggest wage gaps in the country. On average, women in the region earn $14,400 less than men, and it has one of the worst records for promoting women to senior management positions – with just 26% of these positions held by women.

A brick wall or a glass house

It’s been suggested that women marketing managers may experience a phenomenon even worse than the illusive “glass ceiling” in this industry. They actually experience more of a “glasshouse,” meaning that their hindrance to progress within an organization is horizontal and all-encompassing. Not a pretty picture.

It doesn’t help that according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report (2014), Canada ranks 19th out of 142 countries for gender equality.

Just this past week, an internal report emerged from Status of Women Canada indicating that when it comes to the salary gap between the sexes, women have “hit a brick wall.” Evidently, though we are entering the work force (including the marketing industry) better educated and in greater numbers, men are still paid 20 percent more.

All that said, despite what we can certainly agree to identify as a lost list of hurdles, there is no denying that women have made tremendous strides over time in marketing.

An encouraging study of women in marketing by Brandweek in 2009 found that women are experiencing more success in the field than ever before. According to Brand Innovators, even in some of the most traditionally male-dominated services franchise like automotive advertising, there are more women than ever working in brand marketing.

Surely, we can solve this

Moreover, there is a definite appetite for change. An increasing number of corporations are sponsoring annual events to celebrate women in marketing and encourage their participation. Many profiles are also being conducted of high-powered women in the industry to showcase their success story and learn what broke them to where they are today.

A growing number of activists are speaking out about the need to mentor young women, form groups and partnerships, and find more concrete real-world solutions to this gender disparity.

As half of the world’s population and 51% of the Canadian population, it is indisputable that women deserve a seat at the marketing table. As the holders of the majority of purchasing power in a competitive globalized economy, it only makes sense to ensure women have an equal say in corporate decision making — including major marketing campaigns and strategies.

Women are the most sought after target for marketing – they should be leading the conversation. Just consider what a more robust industry we could build if this sector were proportionally representative of the diverse population we market to.

For an industry that has been credited with such innovation over the years, surely, we can solve this. What are your thoughts?

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