Women in marketing

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Sally Kenyon | Digital Account Executive

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Sally, digital marketing executive at Kenyons, has recently returned from working with female refugees in the Middle East. She has some thoughts about women's equality globally and in the marketing world...

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) is #PressForProgress. With the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report revealing that gender parity is 200 years away, we think this is a pretty apt choice.

To make some sort of contribution to the day, we thought we’d take a look at current progress towards achieving gender equality, focusing our critical eye on progress within the marketing industry itself.

On a global level, gender equality is often not the main goal, but an instrument to reduce poverty. Women have been acknowledged for their ‘economic potential’ (we’re flattered) and brought into development projects. Thankfully, this has evolved to acknowledging the need to do more than recognising a woman’s economic attributes; to challenge the existing gender roles and relations that perpetuate gender inequality. That’s more like it.

Here in the UK, the last 40 years have seen significant improvements in gender equality. The Equal Pay Act 1970. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975. How about the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010? Thanks to society pressing the government to recognise women’s rights, men and women across the UK are entitled, by law, to equal rights in the workplace.

So, how is the marketing profession doing?

Research shows that, while women are increasingly well-represented across the industry, they are distinctly under-represented in senior positions. The more senior you get, the more obvious this fact becomes.

And the story gets worse if you have kids. One in ten mums have been reported saying that parenthood has had a significantly negative impact on their career. The number of dads? Zero.

Why is this happening? Despite all of the progress and all of the laws, women are still facing significant under-representation and barriers to equality of opportunity. The simple fact of the matter is that many workplaces are led by men, maintaining a structure that was built by men, for men.

We need to assimilate the movement taking place across the rest of the world and challenge existing gender roles and relations within the marketing industry. This calls for uprooting entrenched, unconscious biases towards women. But change needs to come from the bottom up; we can’t wait for people at the top to recognise the manifold advantages of a diverse workforce and instil change.

I therefore press you to help progress: speak up and challenge inequality whenever and wherever you see it. While International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s liberty and how far we have already progressed, it is also a day for the world to come together and exercise our right to press for more.

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