Only 58% of women reported feeling comfortable or somewhat comfortable asking for a raise, compared to 74% of men, according to a 2020 Indeed study.

Due to burnout, in 2021, one in three women had considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their career in 2021—a significant increase from one in four in the first few months of the pandemic in 2020.

At Conductor, we believe we need to be part of the solution to this gender disparity. Earlier this fall, our Women of Conductor (WoC) employee resource group—whose mission is to create an inclusive, supportive, and inspiring environment for women at Conductor— hosted a “How to Advance Your Career” panel to try and debunk the “why” behind these statistics and provide actionable solutions. A few of the top women leaders in the organization shared their advice and tips on how women in marketing can achieve their growth goals, along with insights on how allies can support the growth of women on their teams. 

Women leaders at Conductor

The hybrid in-person and virtual event was moderated by Lindsay Boyajian Hagan, VP of Marketing at Conductor, and featured speakers included Sherri Moyen, Chief Financial Officer at Conductor, Irene DeNigris, Chief People Officer at Conductor, and Chase Kreuter, VP of Account Management (pictured above; left to right). 

What are the biggest challenges women in marketing face when advancing their careers?

Representation in leadership

At Conductor, we are lucky to see a myriad of intersectional representation at every leadership level. However, that’s typically not the case across most organizations. Although companies have made strides in diversifying gender across their workforces, there are still staggering gaps when it comes to women of color—especially at the leadership level. 

Between entry-level and the C-suite, the representation of women of color drops by more than 75 percent, according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report—the largest study of women in corporate America. As a result, women of color account for only 4 percent of C-suite leaders, a number that hasn’t moved significantly in the past three years. Failing to see gender representation within the leadership level at an organization can have a significant impact on women’s likelihood to pursue and achieve career advancement.

Self-promotion gap

Compared to men, women are often more reluctant to self-promote in the workplace due to the fear that it will be perceived negatively. Due to widely held gender norms, a woman who is assertive or confident is more likely to be seen as arrogant, difficult, or bossy compared to a man. Men who assert themselves in the workplace and lead with authority, however, are seen as confident and powerful. This sentiment was expressed in many of the questions asked throughout our WoC panel. 

Leaky leadership pipeline

Women continue to face a “broken rung” between individual contributors and managers. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted to the same level, including women in marketing. This disparity continues to worsen as gender disparity at the manager-level remains relatively stagnant. This creates a “sticky floor” situation—if fewer women are promoted to manager, fewer women are in the pipeline to be promoted to senior manager. If fewer women are senior managers, there are even fewer women in the pipeline to be promoted to director.

This type of leaky leadership pipeline has created a vicious cycle. If the first few steps on the ladder are broken, it becomes nearly impossible for women to climb to the top. This is why female representation at the director and VP-levels has been so difficult to remedy.

7 effective strategies on how to negotiate and advance your career for women in marketing 

Our panelists discussed the strategies they have found to be successful in combating these gender-specific challenges:

1. Build your performance story

Ready for the next step in your career? Feeling successful isn’t enough. Be prepared to tell a compelling story of how you create value for the business—with detailed metrics to back it up. The key is to show your impact on the organization and how it would benefit if you were to take on more responsibilities or a leadership role.

2. Be open to feedback

Being open to feedback is easier said than done. However, communication from management and peers can really help in pushing yourself to the next level.

“[Feedback] may make you feel not worthy, but really it’s about the cycle of growing. Take in the feedback. Pause. And find ways to grow from it.”

– Sherri Moyen, Chief Financial Officer at Conductor

3. Perform at the next level

Before you dive headfirst into a promotion process, one way to set yourself up for success is to already be operating at that next level.

Start demonstrating you’re ready to do the job ahead of getting the job. That’s something I’ve had a lot of success with in my career. Start doing whatever the gap or the opportunity is…”

– Chase Kreuter, VP of Account Management at Conductor

4. Know your worth

60% of women say they’ve never negotiated their salary, with many stating they quit their jobs instead. Women are conditioned to underestimate their worth. An effective strategy to counteract this is to research the latest competitive salary data for your role and location. Come prepared with this information on hand to ensure any conversations about your salary are based on market value rather than on-the-spot estimations. It’s also best to clearly outline goals and responsibilities for your new role or promotion and practice being assertive beforehand, so you feel more comfortable.

“One of the best opportunities for negotiating is creating that equitable outcome for both parties. What can I deliver for the business? What can they deliver to me? It should be a mutual exchange.”

– Chase Kreuter, VP of Account Management at Conductor

5. Stop the sorry

One telling study confirmed that women tend to apologize more than men. While a wide array of variables are involved, this could be the result of the consistent messages girls receive when growing up about the importance of being polite. This leads to women over-apologizing, starting sentences with sorry, and hedging in their personal and professional lives. 

Want to get ahead? Start taking notice of when you offer up an unnecessary sorry in a meeting, an email, or any other communication. Awareness is the first step. From there, you can start replacing the unwarranted apology with different phrasing. For example, if you are just replying to an email you received the day before, try starting out with a note of appreciation for the individual’s patience rather than an apology for any presumed delay. This minor change can have a major impact on your confidence and how colleagues perceive you.

“‘Sorry for bothering you, but…’

‘I feel bad for asking for this but…’

Women are programmed to apologize. If you are constantly apologizing, you’re discounting yourself.

– Sherri Moyen, Chief Financial Officer at Conductor

6. Build cross-functional relationships

It might sound cliche, but networking is mission-critical to your professional success within any organization. Making connections outside of your immediate team allows you to create allies across the organization. It’s important to put the time in to build those relationships as they can become great resources for mentorship and help advocate for you in the future. 

7. Mentorship is key

Where do you want to be in one year? How about five years? Find someone with a similar career trajectory—either within or outside your organization—and ask them for guidance. There are a growing number of groups, Slack channels, and nonprofits whose sole purpose is to provide mentorship to women in marketing and women in business. If you don’t have a woman leader in your network you can tap, don’t hesitate to reach out and make some introductions. There is a wealth of women passionate about supporting fellow women in the business world and would be happy to share their expertise.

How can allies help support women in their organization?

One of the most impactful ways for allies to support their women colleagues is to check in. Notice someone on your team that has valuable opinions but stays quiet during a call? Simply ask them for their thoughts during or after the call. See a woman in your department who is ready and looking to take on more? Connect to see if they are interested in presenting at the next client meeting or help identify another opportunity for them to lead. Being an ally can take many different forms, but being proactive and checking in on the women in your organization and their career goals is a great first step. 

It can feel like an additional challenge for women in business to gain access to the same career advancement opportunities readily available to men. Implementing the strategies outlined here can help you bridge that gap and achieve the career advancement you deserve. Find inspiration by reading up on 10 of our honorees from Conductor’s first-ever Women in Search awards last year to learn more about the women shaping the future of SEO and how they’re helping fellow women in the industry succeed in the process.

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