Balance for Better

Since the first International Women's Day in 1911, women from all over the world have come together to celebrate their achievements and steer a course towards gender equality. This year's #BalanceForBetter campaign is a year-long push for gender balance in not only the workplace, but also in government, media coverage and every aspect of modern life. Crucially, IWD hope to spread the message that gender balance shouldn't be seen as simply a women's issue, but a business issue.

To mark the day and the theme we interviewed three of our female marketing clients to get their take on whether they believe marketing is a progressive profession for women and what they think should be done to secure gender equality in the workplace. We also asked our Digital Marketing Manager to give his perspective on gender balance within the digital industry as a whole and digital marketing specifically.

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Lucy Mullin: Marketing Manager (Scot JCB)

Can you tell us about your role at Scot JCB?

I've been working for the Scot JCB Group for just over three years. Currently I am responsible for the creation and implementation of the marketing and communications strategy across our five companies, which means the job is really varied. We have seventeen depots across Scotland and the North of England, so there is a fair bit of travelling too!

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What attracted you to a career in marketing?

I studied marketing at uni and I guess I always thought it had a good mix of creativity and logic. I've been working in and around Marketing for almost 12 years now - starting in an agency before doing a few years in press, energy and later life planning, before diggers won my heart! 

Have you noticed progress towards gender balance in marketing during your career?

I think I have always been pretty lucky in my career to have strong female role models, whether it was my direct line manager or above. During my time in press and later life planning, the majority of the senior management team were female; however, I realise that's not the case everywhere.

Which steps has Scot JCB taken to create/maintain a gender balance?

Although the construction and agriculture industries can be quite male orientated, Scots are really supportive of all of their employees. We recently announced our first female Director in the company's history. The number of females within the company has also increased over my time here, especially within management roles. Not enough females apply for vacancies in the engineering side of our business, so it's a good thing that schools and careers services are now pushing STEM subjects to everyone.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace?

I think for me it is definitely finding a work/life balance. I feel like I am really fortunate that I love my job but it can be really difficult to balance home and work, especially as I deal directly with social media which can be quite reactive, so I'm always keeping an eye on posts/comments/emails.

65% of people in the UK believe women won't achieve equality unless men take actions to support women's rights too - International Women's Day 2019 Global Attitudes Towards Gender Equality

Aimee Taaffe: Head of Marketing (IOM)

Can you tell us about your role at IOM?

I'm the marketing lead, and I've been with IOM for 18 months. I manage our comms strategy, acquisition and retention of customers. The company has charitable status, and our commercial business services fund vital occupational and environmental health research. As a multifaceted business, we have a broad target audience to appeal to which means our marketing is wide-ranging and no two days are the same. 

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What attracted you to a career in marketing?

My first interest was journalism; however, following a short course in media studies, I soon released that I would be more suited to marketing. I got a degree in Marketing and PR, and during my working career, I have topped-up with an IDM Diploma in Digital and Direct marketing.

I was attracted to marketing because it's people facing, creative, innovative and fast-paced. Now the world is more digitalised. I love the ability to make data-driven decisions. As a marketing person, you get to work with designers, digital developers, data scientists and business managers to name a few. The network of contacts and exciting people to work with is always growing. 

Do you think marketing is more open to gender balance than other professions?

Marketing is such a broad field of work; you can be a specialist or generalist. Digital marketing, for example, is a relatively new concept in comparison to some areas of work. The route to entry isn't as complicated as a more traditional professions, and the variety of roles mean both men and women are attracted to the field.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace?

Rather than challenges, I see opportunities for women in the workplace. Women should avoid holding themselves back and should strive for leadership roles. Businesses leaders should be aware of previous either conscious or unconscious bias towards men and be open to developing talent so more can achieve leadership ambitions. It won't happen overnight - hard work, experience and self-management will drive confidence in anyone's leadership ambitions.

50,000 women lose their jobs because of maternity discrimination, and any form of discrimination or sidelining is very short-sighted outdated thinking. Businesses have an opportunity to improve staff productivity and loyalty, by developing their people and introducing flexible working cultures for all; women, men, parents, non-parents, and inter-generational.

What advice would you give to women looking to start their career in marketing?

My advice would be for anyone interested in Marketing. Develop your experience through internships; don’t avoid the technical aspects of marketing, as a junior, you will be expected to design, code and copywrite. Do these things in your spare time while studying or working.

Advance your knowledge and read respected blogs and key senior marketing professional articles, follow brands and really monitor how they market themselves.

Observe how people work and connect with someone that you respect. You can learn a lot from those around you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions… be curious and probe. 

Gillian Low: Senior Marketing & Business Development Manager (MacRoberts)

Can you tell us about your role at MacRoberts?

I have been the Senior Marketing Manager at MacRoberts for the last three years after being promoted from Marketing Manager. I joined the firm in 2012 and I have seen the legal landscape in Scotland change quite dramatically during the last seven years. The market is much more consolidated now and we are one of the only independent law firms in Scotland left. We are an incredibly busy department with no one day the same, operating like an agency within the firm - servicing different departments and sectors. Mainly I oversee sponsorship, advertising, digital and PR.

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Have you noticed progress towards gender balance in marketing during your career?

When I look back at my Masters the gender balance of my fellow students was 50-50 but over the last 20 years I have predominately worked with woman. However I have seen a change in working conditions for women which makes it easier for them to stay in the workplace post children. I am a single mum to a five year old - and I work full time - so my life is very much a balancing act.

Being able to work remotely when I need to -  so I am not missing nativity plays or parents drop in sessions – is really important to me.  I don’t think that would have been an option ten years ago - so in my mind this is progress.

Do you think marketing is more open to gender balance than other professions?

Yes I do - mainly because it is an industry that is already well represented by woman. They don't have the challenges or barriers that accountants and lawyers face when trying to succeed in  historically male dominated industries. However, long hours and working to deadlines – which is often the case in marketing jobs - will not suit everybody especially when they have run to pick up children and have other responsibilities. This can add a lot of pressure and stress – but companies can eliminate this by creating a work life balance and inclusive culture.

Which steps has MacRoberts taken to create/maintain a gender balance?

I sit on the Diversity and Wellbeing group at MacRoberts and one of our tasks is narrowing the gender balance within senior positions at the firm. We find that female lawyers often stall their careers after having children, unwilling or wanting to go for a partnership. This is mainly due to long working hours and the demands that the job brings. We have made steps to make this easier for woman with flexible working options, remote working and generating a culture of work life balance. As a result we have many inspiring female partners who work flexibly or part time in order to meet childcare needs. They set an example to younger lawyers that it is not impossible to be a partner and have a happy family life too.

What advice would you give to women looking to start their career in marketing?

Go for it – have the confidence to know you are as good as the next person, with a lot of creative ideas and energy to bring to the table. Find your voice and keep using it.

Globally 39% of people believe discrimination against women in business will have ended in the next 20 years - International Women's Day 2019 Global Attitudes Towards Gender Equality

Huge thanks to Lucy, Aimee and Gill for their time and their excellent insights. We look forward to continuing to work with you. 

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