As marketing executive recruiters, we can agree that diversity is critical to any business. Yet statistics show that there is a major lack of representation of woman leaders in business. Winmo reports that female CMOs make up about 42 percent of positions across industries while Pew Research Center reports that only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women. As a marketing talent agency who pushes strongly for diversity, we can certainly say that there is a large window for women marketers to rise to executive positions. However, the opportunity for women to reach the top of the corporate ladder is still met some challenges.
In order to push through the complex nature of a male-dominated corporate world, women in marketing must continue to break through their personal and society’s constraints placed upon them. By enforcing the support and progress of women toward executive-level positions, we will see the evolution of diverse leadership in the corporate world.
Related: 4 Important Habits of Aspiring CMOs
Advice from Powerful Women for Empowering the Rise of Women Leaders in Marketing
The marketing world is certainly filled with relentless women who have made it to the top and reached success beyond boundaries. They all have their own unique stories to tell and aspiring journeys to share.
So, how do you truly unlock your true potential? As marketing executive recruiters who want to see every single professional advance their careers, we compiled some motivating pieces of advice from top women in business to answer common questions and inspire marketers like you.
We know you’ll like: 8 Important Things Successful Women in Marketing Do
1. Should I be taking risks to move my career forward?
No woman has risen up to a leadership position without taking a few risks. It’s normal to feel hesitant about what you don’t know and what isn’t familiar. But don’t let that fear restrict you from pursuing a great idea or goal. Be fearless in the attempt of doing something new or challenging!
“Be prepared to spot growth opportunities when they present themselves—because they are the key learning opportunities. You’ll know because they make you uncomfortable, and your initial impulse may be that you’re not ready. But remember: growth and comfort never co-exist.” – Ginni Rometty (Chairman, President and CEO of IBM)
The Lesson That Has Guided Ginni Rometty’s Career
Show initiative, take risks, and always challenge yourself to do better. This proves your capabilities and will uncover abilities you may never know you had. If you fail, it’s not the end, but rather a stepping stone along your journey. With the right passion and work ethic, you will continuously grow, because you simply can’t become a CMO or any other leader without taking on new ventures.
2. What tactics help women in marketing move up to a more senior-level role in their organization?
First, determine what you want out of your career, and be specific and focused on how you’re going to get there. You can’t get what you want if you aren’t certain of what your focus is. Take time to reflect on your strengths and skills. From there, create a roadmap to reach your career goals. If you don’t have a clear-cut goal just yet, make sure you have a general idea so you navigate your next step strategically.
“It’s important for women not to self-select themselves out of leadership positions, and for us to build a culture that encourages them to raise their hand. Talk to managers about new opportunities. Raise your hand to be on projects—even if it’s out of your comfort zone—to expose yourself to different people and insights.” – Deanna Strable (Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Principal Financial Group)
Without being overly aggressive, stand up for yourself and proactively create your own opportunities. Develop your voice and own it – don’t hesitate to bring innovative ideas forward! You must believe in yourself first before others can.
“My advice for women who want to rise up into leadership is to stop asking yourself if you can. Doubt is killer for action and promotion. If it is in your mind, it will enter others’ minds. Don’t question yourself. Start walking and the path will create itself under your feet.” – Catherine Perez (Vice President, Corporate Planning & Program Management Office of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd)
3. How can I stay ahead of trends and developments?
Anyone in the rapidly evolving digital marketing space must be a lifelong learner and develop new skills to stay relevant. Knowledge is power, and you must earn your seat at the table by staying sharp.
“Stay ahead of technology and trends by continuously reading various trade publications and leading business sources. Embrace and study industry-specific analytics, but make sure you know your customer personally! Be open to change, try new ideas and never underestimate the power of technology and novel concepts. Stay on top of influencers in your marketplace and deliberately target them to earn their attention.” – Laurie Miller Voke (Founder and CEO of Female Fan Association)
Place yourself in the best place to move forward by holding meetings with your team to share ideas, reading up on industry news, attending webinars, and following key industry leaders.
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4. How do I build a valuable network of connections?
The path to leadership involves growing and evolving. And surrounding yourself with people who believe in your capabilities is incredibly valuable in reaching your potential.
“Constantly surround yourself with people who see you for more than you currently are. Unfortunately, many women may hang out with people who see them for less than they are, or spend time with people who see them at their current level, because it feels comfortable. But if you surround yourself with those people who push you beyond your current capabilities, you’ll be more likely to stretch yourself. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s how we can truly grow and rise up into top leadership positions.” – Catherine Blackmore (Global Vice President, Customer Success of Oracle)
“Networking is not a skill most people are born with. Which means you have to put time and effort into doing it, just like you would with exercising. If you don’t make time in your schedule each day to go running, it won’t happen. Nobody will force you to network, just like nobody will force you to run. You have to build those muscles on your own. The networks and connections you build now aren’t just valuable to you. The most important part of being a female entrepreneur is helping the next generation of women leaders. I feel my job is to inspire people, so they in turn can inspire others. It’s a domino effect. You are someone’s role model right now. It’s up to you to contribute in your own way and be the inspiration for the next generation.” – Heidi Zak (Co-Founder and Co-CEO of ThirdLove)
Build a network with other women who are also pursuing professional growth. Having connections that you can bounce ideas, industry best practices, latest trends and opportunities off of are truly meaningful.
5. Should I be pursuing a career around my passion?
“What do you want to be true in the world because you are here and doing the work? Having a vision for the way you want to affect the world will lead you to the work you are meant to do. Triangulate that vision with your skill set, unique talents, and passion. I have found that when I’m honest about my answers and follow their direction, I end up doing work that I care about really well and with intention. Those stronger results enable me to continue to move forward in that path and assert myself as invaluable to the people I work with. The evidence of my work and my ability to speak to my successes set me up for more.” – Brittany No’el Packnett (Co-Founder, Campaign Zero & Vice President of Teach For America)
“Find an industry you are passionate about and find a career in it. When you live, breath and believe in what you do it doesn’t seem like work. Once you are in, be human. Scientific studies show females on average have a higher EQ than our male counterparts. Use this enhanced social awareness to read customer demands and to lead your organization.” – Brandi Bloodworth Connolly (President and Founder of Crestline Consulting)
Be clear about the impact you want to make. To really succeed at something, your heart must be in it. You can then take on the world and prove how much you truly care for what you set out to do.
In order to climb the corporate ladder as a woman, you must always grow and keep your skills sharp as you can’t ever have too much knowledge (especially in marketing). Actively working to grow your career is just as important as dreaming. As marketing recruiters who have worked with countless women who have worked their way up, we hope these pieces of advice spark some inspiration in you to keep propelling forward.
Take smart chances, keep learning, and take advantage of every opportunity you have. Most importantly, be unapologetically courageous and confident in your skills! Whether you’re starting off in your marketing career or in pursuit of the C-suite, the combination of passion and hard work is a force to be reckoned with. As Michelle Obama once stated, “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
Once you have the confidence and determination to establish your place in the business world, you are now ready to run with the wolves.