In Celebration of International Women’s Day, we caught up with key female leaders from the Women in Programmatic Network and our network to understand what it ‘s like to be a woman in digital advertising, what some of the biggest opportunities and challenges are and how they look to inspire the next generation of women in our industry.
Q1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Alice - “IWD provides an opportunity to acknowledge the progress we’ve made towards gender equality while still recognising the ongoing challenges faced by women worldwide. I think it’s important to take the time to reflect on the contributions that women have made and, for me personally, it’s always such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the importance of gender diversity within our workplace and wider industry.”
Alison - “It means a great deal to have a dedicated day to stop and celebrate the achievements of women across the social, economic, cultural and political landscape. Of course, there is much progress yet to be made on both a local, country-wide and global level. Women’s rights are far from equitable in many places around the world. I hope that the day serves as a platform for women to confidently raise their voices on the issues that matter to their livelihoods — economic, health, and otherwise — and even more so, moves organisations to take concrete actions to empower and support women.”
Paige - “Every year, IWD would come around and whilst I have an appreciation for a day to recognise the past and continued efforts made, the day has always been a reminder that the work is not yet done and we are different in more ways than recognised. It is a celebration of successful, accomplished and inspiring women for me. With a focus on women who have not only been successful within their career but done so while bringing up a family of their own. The day reminds me that the work is still there to understand that showing up, doing your best and positively impacting others both men and women can make you a remarkable woman and we are defined by societal elements of what makes a woman great.”
Isabella - “IWD gives us an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come as an industry and recognise all the amazing women who have helped us get here. I am constantly inspired by all the women I work with on a day-to-day basis and love to use IWD as a day to thank them for their support, encouragement, and hard work! There’s definitely still much work to be done to create a truly equal and safe work environment for all women, but it’s nice to take some time to reflect.”
Federica - “IWD is an opportunity to remember the importance women have in our society, not just in the professional but also in the personal sphere, as well as across the globe.
To me, it is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate all the great women in my life - from my mum to my close friends - and to reflect on what I can do to make myself and them more and more proud of being a woman every day. In my opinion, Women should be celebrated every day - not just on IWD - because they accomplish little miracles every day, without most people even noticing.”
Stacey - “IWD is an opportunity to look around and acknowledge and appreciate all the incredible women around us who are constantly working to make things happen. They often don’t get the appreciation or the limelight they deserve, and International Women’s Day is a reminder to celebrate them, acknowledge their accomplishments and consider what can be done to make their lives better.”
Carolyn - “IWD is a chance to reflect on my personal journey working in the industry for over 25 years. It is an opportunity to consider my own experiences, challenges and opportunities and to ask myself:
Today is an opportunity to remember all the women who have supported and inspired me along the way and to ensure I ‘pass it on’. “
Q2. Can you tell us what it’s like to be a woman in digital advertising?
Alice - “I’ve always felt very empowered working as a woman in digital advertising. It’s a traditionally male dominated environment so in my opinion you have the opportunity to stand out!”
Alison - “I love it! Ad tech is well known as a male-dominated industry, therefore it gives me a great sense of pride whenever I am invited to contribute to articles or I am one of only a handful of women at a senior event. Women in the industry have the opportunity to make a positive impact and pave the way for future generations to succeed in this field.”
Paige - “It’s been a rollercoaster in both the best and some terrible ways. I am grateful to be a part of an industry which has recognised the systemic gender inequality it fostered in the past and collectively chose to do something about it. However, being a part of an industry which is still struggling to rid itself of historic trauma it imposed on both men and women, is also hard as you can find yourself constantly struggling to see ways to help. Incredible safe networks exist like ‘women in programmatic’ & ‘women in tech’ which are so unique in their supportive and inclusive design for a group which historically cultivated an overly competitive culture.”
Isabella - “I’ve been fortunate enough to work at an agency that’s always surrounded me with strong female leaders and mentors, so from my early days, I already had role models of who I might want to be. This made being a woman in digital advertising fun! While there have been challenges I’ve had to overcome that my male counterparts may not have had to, tackling them alongside my strong support system of women (both above and below) has made it rewarding.”
Federica - “ Advertising is a very dynamic and ever-changing industry and in my almost 10 years’ experience in the sector I have always had the chance to not only work with progressive companies (with strong D&I policies) but also with stakeholders who respected my opinion, even though I am a European, non-UK native woman.
I feel the advertising sector offers more flexibility to women in comparison to other male-dominated sectors (such as Finance) and has improved in recent years, notably with the work flexibility brought by the COVID Pandemic.
Kudos to women’s networks such as TWIPN or Bloom that foster and empower all women in advertising from a young age. I feel immensely proud to be part of these communities!”
Stacey - I’m proud that in the advertising industry in the UK, there are many incredible groups and thought leaders who both acknowledge how much the industry has to work on, and how far we have already come. Even though our industry isn’t perfect, I think the fact that those conversations can be had openly and regularly, and are encouraged by leadership teams across many companies, makes it a great industry to work in. Joining in on the conversations being had within the TWIPN, Bloom, NABS and others is a must.
Carolyn - “It’s a privilege. I love the industry and I am proud to work with the very best, most progressive brands in the world as part of a team that is collaborative, inclusive, diverse and constantly striving to serve our brand and agency partners.
The industry has changed hugely in the last 25 years in terms of providing equal opportunities for women.
And in this post COVID world it’s great that so many companies offer flexible working practices; this is hugely beneficial to women (and men) with young families. .”
Q3. Are there any leaders in the industry that have inspired you to get to where you are today?
Alice - “One of my very first managers was a lady called Kate Byrne who is now a media manager at Tourism Ireland. She was the first manager I had who wasn’t afraid to give me tricky feedback, and I really credit her in helping me to elevate my career. I found the way she was able to navigate tough situations with the rest of the (all male) senior leadership team very inspiring.
I am loving that in my new role at MGOMD I get to work under my first female CEO - Natalie Bell! She is widely recognised as an inspiring leader in our industry, and I feel very fortunate to be under such fantastic female leadership. You can really tell that she leads the agency with empathy and a people first mindset, those values are very apparent at MGOMD.”
Paige - “I’m now in a fortunate position where I can choose roles within businesses that have strong leaders either men or women. Joining Kepler was in no small part a testament to the leadership we have and the strong female examples in both Mal Simmonds & Marie Turk.
Through my interviews with them both, we talked openly about DE&I at Kepler and how they have a passion for building a strong leadership team of women and men.
They both uniquely, are examples of women in leadership who are unapologetically remarkable in their own ways whether in or out of social norms and celebrate that.”
Isabella - “From my very first internship in advertising to my almost 6 years at Kepler, I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing women, each of whom has left me with a different message of what being a woman in advertising is. My shoutouts go to Dina Bank, who got me my first media internship as SVP of Finance at Havas as well as some of the many inspiring women I’ve worked with at Kepler both in the US and the UK - Carli Jurczynski, Liz Meola, Remy Stiles, Marie Turk, Mallory Simmonds, and my current manager Jess Haley!”
Federica - “I had the chance to meet a lot of inspiring women throughout my career in advertising.
Just to name a few: Tiama Hanson Drury (Founding Chief Member of Chief) and Debi Hart (VP Product at Forsta) because they mentored and encouraged me to make my first public speech at an important Conference a few years ago.
More recently, Kate Herbert (Senior Director Strategy at Oracle and Mentor at The Forem) who was my inspiring mentor and taught me how to apply the “extreme ownership” principles to every walk of life.
I am also more and more inspired by the co-founders of Bloom and TWIPN, always coming up with brilliant initiatives to empower us.”
Stacey - “I’m constantly inspired by the women around me at Taboola - we’re proud that our EMEA leadership is made up of 50% women, and I just have to look around the room to see half a dozen amazing role models. The women on our team step up to the plate every day, juggling, managing large teams, meeting clients and answering to the business. Many of them are doing this alongside their roles as mothers and partners. They inspire me on a daily basis.
Carolyn - “Honestly, in the first stages of my career there were very few women in leadership roles. Those that were present tended to adopt rather dominant and ‘traditionally male characteristics’ - something I didn’t relate to.
There are many women who inspire me, not necessarily in advertising - Sharon White, Anne Boden, the BBC journalist Orla Guerin, the climber Alison Hargreaves. I generally love stories of people who triumph in the face of adversity from all walks of life.”
Q4. Do you think there is something we could do as an industry to open up opportunities for female leaders in digital advertising? Or Encourage more Women to this industry?
Alice - “Firstly I would say that companies need to address their unconscious bias and increase overall diversity in hiring. Strategies such as blind hiring practices at the assessment stage can be effective to reset the gender balance within interviews. Also ensuring we have a diverse group of interviewers, both to make the candidates feel more comfortable and also to ensure varied viewpoints when assessing candidates.
Outside of work, I am a mum to an 18 month old boy, Freddie, and now more than ever I understand the importance of promoting flexible work arrangements – particularly for women who still (typically) take on more of the parental load. I am extremely fortunate that MGOMD is incredibly flexible for parents, and I have felt very supported since joining. On top of my own personal experience, OMG have just expanded their parental leave policies and at MGOMD we’re working on an enhanced program for women coming back from maternity leave.”
Alison - “Women are more likely to enter a male-dominated industry if they can see other women who have been successful in that field. Therefore, it's important to highlight female leaders and provide them with opportunities to share their stories. We need to address bias: it's important to identify and address any biases that may be preventing women from entering or advancing in the industry. This can be bias in recruitment, performance evaluations or leadership development opportunities. Companies need to create a workplace culture that values and supports diversity and also offers flexible work arrangements. Women are often responsible for caregiving and may require more flexibility in their work schedules; this shouldn’t put employers off as often the same outputs of work apply just done to different timescales.”
Paige - “Starting with statistics and having more businesses share data publicly so, we as an industry and as businesses can be held accountable for the change we make.
At a more human level, we do need to recognise that women in leadership positions now, are statistically more likely to have ‘generational trauma’ impacting how they act as women. Recognising our leaders had to fight to get where they are through the male dominated industry at some of its worst points. This means that these behaviours may still exist; we're ultimately trying to remove from our industry, so change really does start at the top.
Encouraging more women should be done in the right way as ultimately, we have improved but are by no means done with what we need to change. Having honest leaders that can mentor women who join is important to ensure we teach the new generation the history but also, how we can create a better future.”
Isabella - “Representation and nurture.
Seeing women in leadership roles can signal to other women that our industry is progressive and open, and that growing in this field as a woman is possible. This type of message can encourage women to join, knowing that they have a bright and fair future ahead of them.
Nurturing women in digital advertising with the proper support systems, networks, and mentors is also key to ensure they have what they need to grow. Receiving this type of support is what helped me grow in this career and giving the support back to newer team members is what has helped me stay in this career. It may not be easy work, but it is extremely rewarding and fun!”
Federica - “What is stopping us, women, from breaking the glass ceiling? Statistically women are “less bold” than men.
For instance, women apply to a job only if their qualifications 100% match the job description, as opposed to men who apply when there is a 60% match.
Therefore, we need to be bolder, for ourselves but also for the overall ecosystem, because DE&I has a real business impact for companies.
Some stats: Companies with Women as Board Directors show 53% greater performance and 35% greater financial returns vs Companies that do not.
How can we open up more opportunities for female leaders? Start by removing any gender bias in every company process, create mentoring programs, encourage participation in networks such as TWIPN, offer flexible work practices and environments and attend/spread the knowledge of programs such as #IAM REMARKABLE.”
Stacey - “Firstly, I think it’s important we continue to have open conversations about our experiences and what needs to be done - not just during Women’s History Month, but consistently.
But talking isn’t enough. Every company needs to take a good hard look at where their shortcomings currently are, and set specific goals to improve on these, making ourselves accountable on a quarterly or annual basis, just like any other business goal.
For example, at Taboola we acknowledged that we weren’t always getting a diverse set of candidates to interview for all our positions, so we launched a campaign to ensure that 50% of candidates being interviewed for all roles are women.
Finally, one of the best things we can do to encourage women to join and stay in our industry is put in place inclusive policies that enable women to grow their families without sacrificing their careers. This doesn’t only mean giving paid maternity leave and supporting flexible working schedules, but crucially, also enabling men to be able to take parental leave and take on their share of childcare responsibilities. We’re super proud to have revamped our parental leave policy last year to give primary caregivers 26 weeks of paid leave and secondary caregivers to take 8 weeks – globally.”
Carolyn - “Absolutely. Together we should do more.
We know that women are underrepresented in leadership positions. Only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders are women and only 1 in 20 are women of colour (Source: McKinsey Women in the Workforce 2022).
We know that women leaders are leaving their companies at a higher rate than men. There is also increased churn after women have children.
In the US 43% of women leave the workforce after having a baby. In the UK 27.6% women dropped out of the labour market last year (ONS). Of the 1.75m people who dropped out of the labour market in 2022, 84% were women citing child care as the reason.
We also know that women want to advance but they face stronger headwinds than men.
Women leaders are more likely to report that personal characteristics such as their gender or being a parent have played a role in them being denied or passed over for a raise or promotion (Source: McKinsey 2022)
Women are more likely to seek a meritocratic culture and flexible working. And the next generation of women care even more about the opportunity to advance.
Companies that don't take action may struggle to recruit and retain the next generation of women leaders.
Diversity and inclusion is part of DV’s DNA. But we never rest on our laurels.
Listening and understanding the challenges and obstacles women face is key.
Here at DoubleVerify, we also work hard to foster a culture of support and connectedness between the women of DV across all geos and all teams - top to bottom. We also offer very flexible working practices for all our teams.
We strive to ensure that women have a support network - particularly when they return from work after maternity leave which I know from personal experience can be a challenging transition.
We also focus on education. So much of gender bias is subconscious and positive discrimination is often unwelcomed (and in Europe unlike the US it's illegal).
But we need to keep talking and educating our teams to be aware and negate bias - of any kind.
It’s a great industry and I would also champion it. But we must always strive to make it better for everybody.”
Q5. How do you like to inspire and support other females and those entering our industry for the first time?
Alice - “I love seeing young women succeed in an arguably male dominated environment. Through my career I have been fortunate enough to mentor many young women starting in ad tech, and help them propel their careers forward, which has been hugely rewarding. This year I’ve joined the OMG Women’s Advisory Group so I am looking forward to working on many exciting events and projects to inspire Omnicom women! I am also a member of TWIPN, and I have loved being a part of such a collaborative group of women who are passionate about making change in our industry.”
Alison - “Inspiring and supporting other females is not just about promoting individual success, but about creating a more equitable and just society for all. I try to be a role model where possible in my career by setting an example of excellence, resilience, and compassion. I am always happy to share my story, along with the struggles I have faced and overcome along the way. One of the most valuable gifts you can give to another female is your time and expertise. I would recommend anyone joining the industry to become part of a supportive community such as TWIPN. Women often face isolation and discrimination in male-dominated fields or environments. By creating a supportive community of females, we can offer a safe space where women can share their experiences, learn from each other, and encourage each other to succeed.”
Paige - “I believe supporting others starts by supporting yourself so, showing up openly and proudly to everything I do but, also talking about the harder side. It may be as simple as a reaction to their Linkedin post or slack post but, doing my best to support everyone, but women historically have not been supported. Encouraging others to ask the right questions so they can find the right businesses with the right values so hopefully, more women can find environments like we have at Kepler and not have to learn through experiencing harder times in their career but, through hearing others experiences.”
Isabella - “The best form of mentorship is establishing a relationship that goes both ways. Keeping an open mind and listening actively when working with younger women has enabled a 2-way mentorship for me, where I can share my experience and knowledge, but often leave having learned something new about myself and my relationships. I’m a big believer in this and have found that it’s usually what makes the most out of the rapport for all parties involved.”
Federica - “Firstly, I believe every change starts from talking about it, so thanks to IAB Europe for giving us a chance to express our opinion on this important and often neglected topic.
Beyond that, I am a mentor for an ESCP EUROPE Master student based in Paris, an active member of Bloom and TWIPN and my next goal is to fulfil my role as new #IAM REMARKABLE facilitator to foster women empowerment in the workplace. “
Stacey - “As a woman in leadership, I have a seat at the table and have the power to push for change in big and small ways. I try to champion causes that will make things better for the next generation of female leaders, and to be honest with the men that I work with about the things we need to be doing better. Over the years I’ve also been really proud to be involved with mentoring schemes like Bloom, working with individual women to provide a sounding board and help them grow in their careers.”
Carolyn - “I have been lucky enough to work with a number of mentors throughout my career. I am both a mentor and a mentee and I encourage everyone - male or female - to find a mentor (or two) to help support their personal learning and development.
I have also found mentoring schemes in the workforce work really well and help foster that all important culture of support and connectedness between women.
Find a mentor - someone that inspires you. Someone that will help you become the very best version of yourself. That’s my advice.”