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The gender divide in marketing: Where are we at?


It’s no secret that marketing is often seen to be a female-oriented industry to work in. Attracting people with diverse interests, marketing is unique in that it encourages people to exercise both their creative and analytical skills to create marketing campaigns that catch the eye of the general public- and as such, this is an industry where many aspiring young businesswomen start their careers.

Unfortunately, the gender divide in marketing may be wider than first meets the eye, as the results of our recently-published Salary Survey paint a clearer picture of the reality of a life in marketing. Though 62% of our respondents were women, we found that, on the whole, those women made up the majority of junior roles, whilst the overwhelming majority of top positions, such as CMOs and Directors, were male. As a result, we can conclude that men also take home the top salaries and bonuses.


A global concern

Our Salary Survey taps into a long tradition of research in this area, including Marketing Week’s salary survey which cites the average gender pay gap for full-time female workers as having been stuck at 14.1% for the past three years. Indeed, the gender pay gap for women in their twenties is now actually five times larger than it was five years ago, pointing to a troubling trend that seems to persist despite the rising levels of females progressing in business. This raises cause for concern, especially as a recent study by McKinsey shows that companies with the most women on their board of directors consistently outperform those with no representation, with a 41% return on equity and by 56% in operating results.


What women want

What’s behind this phenomenon- and what can we do to change it? Part of it could be due to traditional gender roles: our Salary Survey shows that flexible working, flexible benefits and holiday days are all more important to women than to men when it comes to finding a new role, with 45% saying that flexible benefits were vital, as opposed to 34% of their male counterparts. Could this be because the majority of childcare often falls to mothers - and is this why men are prioritised for promotion over women?

Indeed, a third of employers still don’t allow flexibility around childcare, which makes pursuing a full-time career in a senior role much more difficult for women who are also expected to care for children- just look at the media furore that accompanied New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s announcement of her pregnancy. Paired with research by the New York Times which shows that the moment that the gender pay gap peaks most sharply is in a woman’s late twenties to mid-thirties, which is the time that many women tend to have children, the results are self-evident. To address this, it’s vital that women take advantage of flexible working, and not negotiate their salary in exchange for it: with the rise of flexible employee benefits packages across all sectors of business in the UK, this challenge will hopefully be easier to surmount in the future.


Getting ahead

So, what can women do to improve their pay and promotional chances? Our survey shows a strong link between the top roles and the levels of qualification and training possessed by high-ranking businesspeople. More senior professionals are more likely to have undertaken a digital marketing course in the last twelve months, with 50% of CMOs and 40% of In-House Directors who responded having done so; they are also much more likely to have received mentoring, with 34% of Senior Managers and above having had help, as opposed to only 24% of Managers, and those ranked below.

Though men are more likely to have significant experience in many of the driving areas of marketing today, such as SEO, AI and Analytics, women have an opportunity to grow and develop here, too. Women prioritise their development in the workplace above men, so the digital revolution presents a real chance for women to take control of their career and educate themselves in areas that might benefit them more than traditional marketing staples like content creation.


Looking to the future

It does seem that the market is finally starting to open up. Gender pay gap reporting legislation, requiring all employers to publish the average salaries of male and female employees, came into effect in 2017. Hot on its heels came the BBC pay scandal, which offers employers a lesson in what this kind of exposure can reap in terms of negative publicity. Women are also starting to come into their own, with organisations such as the 30% Club launching in 2010, with the aim of achieving a minimum of 30% women on all FTSE-100 Boards. The current tally stands at 27.9%: a marked improvement on the original percentage of 12.5%.

Success, however, lies in giving women the tools to improve their chances of gaining a promotion, or a pay rise. By investing time in training and development, especially in driving industry areas, and encouraging them to ask for pay rises as a result of that training, more women can start to climb the ladder. For the women at the top, it’s a question of leading by example: Syl Saller, the Global CMO of Diageo, is the perfect example of a woman who considers herself a role model for being ‘a parent who puts her family first while still managing a pretty big job’, and states that though her company is ‘known for valuing gender diversity […] we also value diversity in how people think. We want people to bring their best authentic selves to the workplace.’

Despite the figures, women are slowly taking control of their own careers. And of course, the more that get the promotions they deserve, and the more women that climb the ranks of the industry, the more self-perpetuating the system will become.

At EMR, our in-depth research helps us keep our finger on the pulse of the market, so we can continue matching skilled candidates to the best jobs in marketing. Find out more about what we do here, or browse our jobs.

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