Digital marketing was born practically along with the internet and has been present in our daily lives for years, but it is still a sector in constant and wide expansion, which has a dynamism of its own. One characteristic of this area, however, does not seem to accompany the innovation and modernity it proposes: its workforce remains overwhelmingly male. Why is it worth to have women in digital marketing?
Women make up 30 percent of the professionals of this industry, occupying only 6.5 percent of leadership positions, according to a survey made by the Digital Marketing Institute.
Those data are nothing more than a reflection of our society. The same society that pays an average of 20% less for female workers than for male workers, according to a report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) released in March 2019. Women are also absorbed by the labor market in lower positions than men.
It is noted a shyer penetration of women in careers linked to exact sciences. As digital marketing has a foot (some people say both) in this field of knowledge and has a direct connection with technology, the distance between women and this industry remains.
Women in tech
If the presence of women in digital marketing leaves something to be desired, what can we say about women in technology? The 2018’s edition of Web Summit, one of the largest conferences of innovation and technology in the world, held every year in Lisbon, gave visibility to a problematic reality that caused debate and even some embarrassment. In a photo of the event’s stage released by the organization, which brought together some of the leaders of the Portuguese startup community and some local rulers, not even a single woman could be seen.
Something needs to be change. First is the photo family yesterday at Portugal Web Summit. 100 person no woman. Incredible when a lot of women are doing great works at technology. pic.twitter.com/4ocUHr08lT
— Joan Carles (@jcrd) November 8, 2018
The world press passed on the case and the conference was dubbed “Men Summit”. Portuguese newspapers reported that, although it is not possible to see women in the photo, at least four of them were there, and they have been seen more and more at the event’s booths and lectures (Lilian, from helloNira, and I were there). Obviously, these data, although relevant, do not make gender inequality in the sector less serious.
The positive aspect of all this was certainly raising debate and showing the need for programs that lead to gender equality in the sector.
Let us be fair recognizing that a number of efforts has already been made to encourage women to enter in technology, either by the organization of Web Summit, with the Women in Tech program and discounts on tickets for women, or by other organizations. However, it is clear that we haven’t got to the bottom of this issue yet.
Root of the problem
It is worth reminding that the presence of women and men in certain areas has nothing to do with any genetic trait that makes women less capable or less interested in certain subjects than men.
Also, a controversial matter that permeates this issue should be pointed out: male and female are social constructions, not biological, based on perceived differences between sex, according to studies by highest-ranked gender and identity theorists such as Joan Scott, Judith Butler and Stuart Hall. So, in a generalized way, we become what we were created to be.
The fact is that girls are encouraged to be dedicated moms and housewives. Since childhood, they get little pots, dolls and make-up as gift, while boys are presented with video games, Legos, toy car and balls. Thus, they have their preferences, motor skills and logic stimulated in different ways
Over the years, girls and boys are led to believe that high positions and certain jobs are designated to men.
The documentary ‘Miss Representation’ (2011) provides important insights into this by addressing the way the media downplays women and pressures them to pursue unrealistic beauty standards.
Based on a research with American children, the documentary exemplifies how our preferences are shaped in childhood and adolescence. According to the data, an equal number of seven-year-old boys and girls want to be president when they grow up – approximately 30% of respondents. However, girls’ interest drops considerably around the age of fifteen.
Leadership is seen as male longing, while women are discouraged from pursuing ambitious positions. In the documentary, US children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman explains this decline observed in adolescence with a simple statement: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” The power of representativeness.
What does digital marketing gain from women?
The importance of women in digital marketing is a two-way street: if, on the one hand, they are big digital consumers, on the other, as professionals, they bring to the business a rigorous view of those who enjoy it.
This logic is even more evident when it comes to products and services for women, families and children, but it is also valid for sales in general. At the same time that they are demanding consumers – contacting companies, asking questions, requesting exchanges and repairs, complaining about poor service and substandard products – women have a similar view of the market as professionals and work for a higher quality standard.
Another point in favor is the flexibility that the digital marketing work model offers. It is possible, for example, to work from anywhere and at varying times. This makes easier to conciliate the career with the fulfillment of the traditional role of women in society, which is to take care of the house and the family.
Last but not least, women have already qualified themselves to work in digital marketing. They are present in large numbers in colleges and courses on this subject.
We can conclude that it is missing opportunities for women in digital marketing, with equivalent wages to those offered to men.
For changing this scenario effectively, girls must be encouraged from childhood to do the activities that suit them better and be aware that they are able to succeed in whatever they choose.
A change in the perception of women’s role in the labor market, and specifically in the digital marketing industry, would result in shorter-term transformation in the sector. In addition to being qualified, they know how to explore and optimize a market that they already consistently integrate.