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According to a May article by Fortune reporter Emma Hinchliffe, “the number of women running America’s largest corporations has hit a new high.” As of this year’s report, 37 (or 7.4%) of Fortune 500 companies have female leads, up from 33 last year.
There are three ways to look at this news:
In just one year, the number of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies grew by 12%.
100 years after the fight for female suffrage in America, more than 90% of our nation’s largest 500 corporations are run by men.
More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are still no black female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies.
In her article dedicated to the topic of female CEOs, Hinchliffe noted that there is very little diversity among the female leaders of Fortune 500 companies. Plus, only seven of the 37 women run companies within the Fortune 100 subset and several of the Fortune 500 CEOs are concentrated in retail “while female leadership among the Fortune 500’s tech companies remains rare.”
Looking at the first 13 of the 37 Fortune 500 female leaders (based on alphabetical order, scroll down for their profiles; subsequent posts will highlight the remaining 24 female leaders), I’ve identified five similarities across their stories:
Female Fortune 500 CEOs are authentically optimistic. Optimism and authenticity have been noted by many of the female Fortune 500 leaders as essential characteristics for success. The clear advice from female CEOs is to just be yourself.
Positive reactions to change often brought success for this group of female leaders. A focus on new ideas and innovations to evolve businesses or solve problems propelled many of the female Fortune 500 leaders forward in their careers.
These women are bold and courageous. Throughout their careers, Fortune 500 women CEOs capitalized on opportunities when the opportunities were presented to them, not when they felt fully equipped to tackle them.
They’re not afraid of technology. From AI to personalization to electric vehicles, women leaders are creating, enhancing and embracing sophisticated technology for all its worth.
Long tenures often resulted in positive growth. Many of the female Fortune 500 CEOs spent decades (if not their entire careers) at companies they are now leading. This fact is not meant to discourage job hopping, but more to realize job squatting has merits, too.
What similarities do you notice across the profiles of these 13 incredible women? Please share your thoughts, tagging Women of Martech using @Women Of Martech on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Click here to read the profiles of 13 incredible women leaders.
Author: Sarah Cavill
There are only four black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and none of them are women. And, although there have been gains for black women on the board of Fortune 100 and 500 companies, the truth is that black women are underrepresented in corporate America with only one in 25 C-suite leaders a woman of color. “It’s hard to lean in when you’re not even in the room,” said Minda Harts, CEO and cofounder of The Memo, a career-development community platform.
The current climate around the country, and urgency for change, may prompt stakeholders to look at ways in which they and the corporations they work for can forge a better path toward diversity and inclusion.
In recent years, some corporate cultures have moved away from the word diversity, focusing more on inclusion and belonging. “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a behavior, but belonging is the emotional outcome that people want in their organization,” said Christianne Garofalo, who leads diversity and inclusion at the executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles. Adding, “What’s fueling it [inclusion] is a desire to have a sense of purpose at work and a sense of community.”
Corporations that want to create real opportunities for black women at their corporations need to implement concrete strategies that make women from diverse backgrounds feel a part of the culture of the company, and as eligible for advancement as their peers of all races and genders.
Change hiring policies if the policies don’t prioritize diversity. Recruit from HBCUs, place ads with services and recruiters that target job seekers from diverse backgrounds, and investigate any biases in hiring that may exist in the corporate structure.
Amplify the success of black women at the company. Amplification can be performed through promotions, awards and recruitment and should be done in an authentic way that doesn’t feel performative.
Provide equal compensation. Black women are paid 21% less than white women, but they are less likely to leave their jobs because of care-giving responsibilities or fear of being labeled difficult. Taking an internal audit of the corporate pay structure and where there are discrepancies can lead to an environment in which salaries are equal and women feel confident advocating for raises.
Require comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for all employees. An effective and enforced anti-harassment policy creates a safe environment without fear of retaliation or abuse.
Be accountable. Diversity initiatives are nothing new -- most major corporations have diversity and inclusion directors -- but, without accountability, CEOs may appear to be talking the talk without walking the walk. A diversity program should yield results that includes black women at every level of the company, including c-suite.
A corporation can, and should, have policies that facilitate diversity, but ultimately corporations are made up of people. Individuals have the power to change the environment for their colleagues, whether it’s extending a hand after their own promotions or speaking up when they see injustice.
Be an ally. Allyship is essential in the fight for equality in America, and that includes in the workplace. Women with the power to hire or promote black women should make every effort to do so. Actively being an advocate and seeking out black applicants or black colleagues for new positions or promotions should be a priority when possible.
Network. Attend networking events that offer the chance to meet women from all backgrounds, developing relationships that may lead to opportunities down the road. Minda Harts discussed having a “squad” of women she’s met through networking both in the workplace and at outside events. “We talk a lot about networking,” said Harts. “I think it's so important and crucial for women of color if we want the seat at the table.”
Speak up. Speaking up on behalf of colleagues that aren’t being respected or getting the promotions or credit they’ve earned can be an effective way to correct inappropriate power imbalances in the office. Trusted relationships in which colleagues rely on one another can create a culture of belonging.
Michelle Robbins began her professional life in the radio promotion department for Disney’s commercial record label. She had no way of knowing it at the time, but the role turned out to be an auspicious beginning to a career that has positioned her among martech leaders and led to her current role as Aimclear’s Vice President of Product Innovation.
“Cutting my teeth in marketing at one of the world’s most recognizable brands has given me a leg up throughout my career and particularly through the evolution from offline to online marketing,” said Robbins.
Even before martech was a term, during her first professional role, Robbins could see change was coming. While working at Disney, she remembers sitting in on a meeting with executives from two technology firms pitching their solutions – SoundScan, which had developed a platform for tracking actual record sales, and BDS, one of the first technology firms to monitor radio airplay data.
“Prior to these technologies, there was no way for record companies to track how many times a radio station played their records or hard data around record sales, everything was self-reported by the radio stations and record stores” said Robbins. She recalls many in the room were skeptical of the new technologies - and others emerging at the time, “There was a lack of vision and innovation – a ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ attitude.”
Robbins understood early on how data and technology could dramatically impact a brand’s marketing efforts. It was the record label’s lack of vision that drove her to explore new career opportunities.
“I hopped from music to technology, joining a startup to, ultimately, handle sales and marketing for their web server software products. This in turn led to me going back to university to take programming and web development courses – which led to running my own web development consultancy.”
Robbins eventually landed at another startup in the online media and publishing space. It was here she experienced one of her most rewarding career highlights when she took the initiative to build a tech platform for the company’s events team.
“The event team was using spreadsheets to manage the agendas, speakers and other event details. In reviewing their process, I determined a much more efficient workflow was needed and set about creating a couple of simple improvements.”
The event planning technology initiative led to her architecting the data models and database, writing all the code and scripts and developing the interface for what became a comprehensive platform that powered all of the brand’s events, from agenda development all the way through on-site event logistics.
“The platform I created was critical and foundational to the event business for the ten-plus years it was utilized while I was there.”
Another career highlight for Robbins was the time she spent helping coordinate the “Janes of Digital” networking events that were hosted by Microsoft Bing and focused on elevating issues around career advancement, mentoring and workplace diversity and inclusion challenges for women and minorities. Robbins helped develop the event topics, recruit speakers and moderate panels.
“Prior to these large events – which were the first of their kind in the search marketing industry – I had hosted smaller dinners at our conferences to bring women in the industry together, but the Janes events really expanded and opened the opportunity for so many more to connect, participate, share and learn.”
A Thriving Career
In her current role, Robbins works cross-functionally with the marketing ops, dev ops and ad ops teams at Aimclear, an integrated marketing agency. She is focused on data analytics and martech and leads innovation around products and services offered by the firm.
“I honestly don’t have a ‘typical’ day, as the projects I’m working on span internal (agency) and external (client) priorities and vary quite a bit. Having significant experience across a number of domains affords me the opportunity to do deep work with multiple departments, while also having high-touch client interaction,” said Robbins, who confesses she has always thrived in this type of role.
While Robbins’ career has maintained an upward trajectory, there were setbacks along the way. Her biggest challenge involved an all too common experience shared by many women in business. She says she was part of a company where women made up 70% of the staff, but top male leadership maintained a culture that allowed for disrespectful behavior toward female reports.
According to Robbins, she had been instrumental in helping grow the company’s brands during her time there. She oversaw multiple teams and loved her colleagues, the work, the brands and the industry, but in her final year, made the decision to leave her executive role.
Robbins said, “As I’d built my career very publicly advocating for women’s empowerment and against workplace harassment, the time came when I needed to decide if I was going to continue to look the other way or leave a job and teams I loved to find a role that supported and nurtured equality along with results.” Robbins says her resignation was, simultaneously, the hardest and easiest decision she ever made, and she has never regretted making it.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
For women who are at the start of their careers, or anyone struggling to put a spotlight on their own achievements, Robbins says it is time we reframe recognition as responsibility. That way, it is easier to share the wins.
“If you or your team were responsible for audience growth, frame it as ‘my team did X initiative and it lead to Y growth’ instead of ‘we saw Z% growth last month’ – this gives credit where credit is due,” said Robbins who believes in the adage it’s not bragging if it’s true, even though she still has difficulty following her own advice.
“This is something I continue to struggle with. It’s much easier for me to give credit to my team, a co-worker, etc. than to ‘toot my own horn’ – but, I’ve gotten better at understanding how to communicate contributions without being uncomfortable as I’ve progressed through my career. I just wished I’d started doing so earlier.”
Robbins also recommends women put themselves out there more often – submitting pitches to speak at conferences, acting as moderators or serving as mentors or sponsors for other women in the industry.
“Attend networking events where you can share your work with other colleagues in the industry who may be unaware of what you do in your role or the projects you’re working on and your specific accomplishments. Building a network, and being an active voice in the network, is crucial to amplifying your contributions.”
As an organization created to recognize women’s contributions to the martech industry and elevate women’s voices within our professional community, Women of Martech couldn’t agree more.
Last week, the Women of Martech steering committee met for the first time ever. As this group of 12 women shared their inspiring stories and experiences, I was in absolute awe. The power of this group was palpable, even though we were meeting via Zoom. This steering committee meeting was a reminder that the stories of this group - and the stories for many women across the martech industry - need to be shared more broadly.
Sadly, too many women enter the workforce with timid spirits. Though some say the “confidence gap” between men and women is a myth, the thoughts of the Women of Martech steering committee suggest otherwise. According to a recent study by leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman, the largest confidence gap occurs at age 25, when 30% of women compared to 50% of men feel professionally confident. Reflective of limited confidence, younger professional women are also less likely than men to grade their work well - even when their managers see them as effective.
So how do we help young professional women become more confident? In part, by telling them it’s okay to be proud. It’s okay to taut your accomplishments and to share your successes. Being awesome is good, not something you should hide. We need to repeatedly show young female professionals that it’s okay to be yourself - your amazing, confident, hardworking, full-of-hustle self.
Author: Kathy Bryan, Women of Martech President
In less than a month, Women of Martech has built an international membership of more than 170 women ready to amplify the voices of their peers. We knew there was a need for women within the martech industry to come together to support each other, but we did not realize how many women were craving a group like Women of Martech.
“When Americans think about leadership, they think about men, period,” noted Forbes contributor Cami Anderson in a recent article titled, “Why Do Women Make SuchGood Leaders During COVID-19?” Even most women typically think of men first when asked to identify a leader they admire.
Patience and modesty are getting in the way of women progressing their careers. “In meetings, women tend to wait to speak until they can make an irrefutable point, while men contribute opinions without overthinking them,” according to Fern Kanter, ECP of CHMWarnick, a hotel asset management and owner advisory service.” Likewise, a 2017 article in The Atlantic, written by staff writer Olga Khazan, mentions an interview with Laurie Rudman, social psychology feminist professor and Director of the Rutgers University Social Cognition Laboratory. Rudman “emphasized how important it is for high-achieving women to own their success rather than chalking it all up to mentors and luck, even if doing so comes with a price. ‘Stereotypes about how female leaders should behave,’ Rudman said, ‘will only change when enough of us defeat them.’”
The quick growth for Women of Martech shows that women are tired of being patient and tired of being overlooked. Women within the martech industry are ready to be noticed for their achievements and innovations.
Author: Melissa Ledesma
Whether you are a recent female grad or a few years into your marketing career, your ability to build relationships will be invaluable to your professional growth. Future career success is innately tied to the impact of positive business relationships. Networking might sound like the greatest of all buzzwords, but in marketing, building connections with industry peers can help you find your voice, expedite your career and bring you a sea of opportunities. There is no better platform for networking than a professional trade association.
At a time when many are facing furloughs, hiring freezes and layoffs, networking is more essential than ever. More importantly, now is a great time to focus on establishing long-lasting and tight-knit professional connections that will endure with fellow female martech professionals. The quality of your relationships will provide more benefits than quantity will alone.
There is a long history of men getting to positions of power by leveraging their connections. Unfortunately, women are less likely to experience the same. According to the2019 Women In The Workplace report by Lean In, in 2018 women were still seriouslyunderrepresented at senior levels. Although the number of women in C-suite roles has increased throughout the last five years, only21% of executive level positions in 2018 were held by women. In the report, HR professionals noted that a “lack of sponsorships” among women could be a deterrent for their career growth. Sponsors, otherwise known as advocates, are simply individuals who are connected to a person within the same organization and are in a position to provide advancement opportunities. Women need to find a combination of both women mentors and women sponsors to truly excel their careers.
By joining female professional associations and organizations, like Women of Martech, women in marketing roles will gain access to peers plus unique content and experiences that are tailored to help women grow personally and professionally. Here are three ways joining a women-led trade organization can help women marketers excel their careers.
Becoming a member of a trade association means inclusion. Being part of a professional organization can provide you access to other members. Many leading women’s organizations offer opportunities to interact and collaborate with fellow women. Whether you volunteer to assist a committee, contribute to a group forum or just connect with your peers through virtual events, trade associations offer a platform to increase your awareness of fellow women professionals and build connections.
Many trade organizations strive to distinguish their members. Amplification efforts can include a variety of awards and recognition programs, authorship of thought leadership content and publicity in association content. Professional recognition by your peers can help to establish your career and take it to the next level. Receiving an award from a trade association is often a member-only benefit. Winning association sponsored awards is an opportunity to promote your professional accomplishments.
If you feel you are lacking ideas, creativity or confidence, access to content that will inspire and motivate you could make all the difference. Many female-based professional organizations publish unique content for working women in all industries. Access to information surrounding popular topics among women in business could increase your knowledge, help you hone your skill set and raise your awareness of fellow female leaders with whom you can connect
Author: Kathy Bryan
In 2016, during the tail end of Barack Obama’s presidency, the idea of “amplification” went viral as a way to help women’s voices be heard and their successes recognized.
Women across the U.S. struggle with the same challenge the White House women faced during the Obama administration and still face today. Holding just slightly more than one-quarter of executive and senior-level positions, women often find themselves under-represented during strategic meetings. Unfortunately, under-representation can sometimes result in female voices going unheard. Too often, women’s ideas go unshared and unexecuted.
Women of Martech was designed to help the world learn more about successful women and their accomplishments. By broadly promoting the contributions women are making within the martech industry, we believe we can show the impact women are making for all of us. There are two ways you can help: become a Women of Martech member or share Women of Martech news with your network. Working together, we’ll change perceptions and change the future.
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