Marketers' Breakfast: Women in Marketing

26th Oct 2017
Wednesday 25th October
The Anthologist, 58 Gresham Street, London

Amigo is sponsoring the upcoming Women in Marketing awards.

Therefore in the latest Amigo breakfast, we invited marketers to discuss gender diversity in their industry.

Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.

Career Progress

Gini Sharvill, a Senior Global Brand Manager at Häagen-Dazs, mentioned inequalities in career progress. Marketing is majority female at its entry- and mid-levels. However, women are still a stark minority at executive-level. Sara Bender, Strategy Director at Mindshare, agreed, noting that most organisations still have a glass ceiling, even almost fifty years after the problem was first identified (at a conference organised by Hewlett-Packard).



Bella Beck, Ecommerce Lead at Lidl UK, suggested that good mentors are key to breaking down the glass ceiling because they can be so important for a career. She explained how she has benefited from good bosses at Porsche, Red Bull, and Lidl. Janis Thomas, Marketing Director at Birchbox, added a surprising example from her career when she pointed out that for promoting female career progression, one of the best CEOs she had worked for was from her time at Playboy.



Our guests also discussed the importance of parenting. Sara Bender proposed that while gender roles are presupposed by parents, this is changing with the next generation. She applauded Tinder for providing 39 categories that you can identify yourself as. Bella Beck also mentioned the different culture in Scandinavia, where men are encouraged to take time off work and women can work flexibly after having children. Daniele Fiandaca, Co-founder of the business change consultancy Utopia, commented that this has taken 40 years and high taxes to achieve, but Bella suggested that Lidl are already encouraging this model in the UK.



Frederic Kalinke, Managing Director of Amigo, raised an issue with influencer marketing. Brands logically want to work with the most popular influencers on instagram. However, the most popular ‘instagrammers’ tend to present themselves very differently to actual women. They are not only more likely to adhere to conventional beauty standards but also will carefully curate and enhance the images they share. While brands are doing what is right by their data, they are cementing a serious problem.


Gini Sharvill noted the example of Special K’s advertising campaigns. The brand implicitly acknowledged that their previous ads perpetuated gender biases by misrepresenting women. However, when they tried to move away from this with an ad that “empowered” women they were criticised again for the perceived shallowness of their attempt. There was agreement around the table that marketing poses some uniquely complicated problems when it comes to gender equality.


Aimee Wilde, Marketing Manager at Amigo, asked the table whether there was a choice of what should drive efforts at promoting gender equality: morality or commerciality. The resounding answer was commerciality. Our guests argued that the belief that men and women are and should be treated as equal needs to be articulated in the language of business. Plenty of studies were mentioned that demonstrate the commercial sense of putting women in senior positions.


Head of Marketing at Saberr, Jennifer Robertson mentioned that her company is contributing to this business case. Saberr are looking at including demographic information in their software in order to analyse the effects of gender diversity (or the lack of it) on the productivity of workers and the speed at which projects are completed. Jamie Klein, a Senior Research Executive at BBC World Service, spoke about his positive experience working for Chelsea FC, where the commercial team included as many women as men.


Ade Onilude, Founder and CEO of Women in Marketing, argued that it is in fact brands who can do the most to achieve gender equality in marketing. They control marketing strategy decisions when they hire agencies. She noted HP’s Antonio Lucio as a positive example of someone who is promoting change through his business decisions. Freethebid is also, according to Ade, a great initiative to ensure female representation on both sides of the marketing pitch process.



Daniele Fiandaca explained that he began his ‘Token Man’ initiative after being unhappy with the level of engagement from men in gender diversity conversations. Daniele’s view is that exclusively-female contexts, whether they are all-women shortlists, teams, panels at events and so on, actually hold women back.


Frederic Kalinke observed that it had been unusually difficult to convince any men to attend this event and Ade Onilude added that in her experience the title “Women in Marketing” can be a little off-putting for men, who historically have asked if they need to wear a skirt to participate in these sort of discussions.


Jo Nye, a Director of Women in Marketing, argued that things have definitely got better for female marketers. She recalled that 20 years ago she often found herself to be the only woman in the room. Jo also observed that the younger generation of women have more balanced views on managing family life. Daniele and Ade both agreed that it would be the next generation who would change things most significantly.



There was a consensus among our guests that businesses need to choose a set of values and embed these throughout everything they do. Frederic explained how we do that at Amigo, by using our values in quarterly reviews, the way we conduct client meetings, and the way we build our technology.


He also praised organisational models such as Spotify’s implementation of a holacracy and Google’s Project Aristotle. Frederic explained that he has found one benefit of giving employees autonomy to be that it has created an environment absent of the sort of machismo or egotism that mirror typical masculine biases in business. He also suggested that it could be a useful endeavour to build a platform that allowed job applicants to find out about a company’s gender equality policies when they are choosing where to apply.


What can be done?

Throughout the discussion, our guests focussed on practical solutions to the problems that we are all too familiar with. Mentorship emerged as a powerful way to get women to the executive level of companies, as did using the evidence of the commercial benefits of having more women at board level to convince senior managers.

photos by Gyan Gurung

If you’re interested in attending an Amigo Marketers’ Breakfast, then please do get in touch.

Further reading

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