Not so long ago, marketing was a field exclusively run by men. Also not so long ago, marketing was confined to billboards and print ads, and sales could only be made with cash in brick-and-mortar stores.

A lot has changed in the past century! Today, digitization is taking over every corner of our lives, and it has affected the way we market, shop, and more.

Can we say the same thing for women’s rights and positions in the workplace? How has the role of women evolved in the context of the digital world, especially in digital marketing?

In honor of International Women’s Day 2020, we talked to some of the most influential women in the industry to find out. One core topic in our discussions was conversation itself: how it’s the key to relationship-building, which in turn is the foundation of digital marketing. Read on for a conversation on the importance of gender diversity in the industry, including how it will impact the future of digital marketing as a whole.

Conversations with influential women in digital marketing

We all agree that meaningless ads aren’t worth much in this decade. But there are certain disagreements when it comes to how we can better listen to our audience in order to improve our marketing. Is it enough to use tools to gather information to help us sell effectively? Or do we need to take human point of view into consideration more than ever? Dana Tran, Co-founder of CodelessBot, believes in the latter:

It's extremely noisy in the online world. An important part of marketing is learning about your audience. After all, a successful digital marketer isn't just a person who knows how to run ads, set up a website or build a chatbot. A successful marketer needs to understand their audience’s problems, struggles and goals.
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, yet 91% of them feel that advertisers don’t understand them. Which isn’t surprising considering that the majority of creative directors are male.
To connect with this powerful group of consumers, businesses need to create messages that make women feel like they are being heard and understood…which can only be achieved by providing women with a more active and influential role in digital marketing.

Janet Chiang, Co-founder & COO of GoSky AI Inc., shares Dana’s opinion. She explains:

janet chiang
It’s a known fact that women are powerful consumers, with up to 80% of representation when it comes to purchases in certain industries that are typically male-dominated. Having just as many women as men in our team provides voices from different angles on all discussion tables.

But Janet also highlights that including women in more positions in the industry doesn’t happen automatically. It takes a more focused effort to make meaningful progress towards that goal. She tells us more:

In the first year when we launched the agency, I was on board with six men. When we started hiring, we decided to aim for equality in our team. Fast forward, and we are proud to say that today, just two years later, GoSky AI has achieved 50/50 in gender equality in each department.
But it’s not only about the ratio; it’s also about women’s influence in the workplace. Studies have shown that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, while women apply only if they meet 100%. This information indicates how ready women are when they decide to take on a new role or challenge.
Although the digital marketing industry is still male-dominated, we will continue to work hard to achieve gender equality within our organization, as both women and men are indispensable.

Gender diversity isn’t just a good idea within organizations, however. To continue making progress, we need to work towards the same in relationships with clients, customers, and others in the industry as well.

Chloë Thomas, Founder & Podcast Host of Ecommerce MasterPlan, expresses her insights on this topic:

chloe thomas
I hope the evolution of digital marketing this decade happens as a result of finding better ways to serve customers in order to grow businesses. That has to come first, and I hope that will be done by a mix of men and women.
Every person in this industry has a role to play in helping shape it in a positive way, and the more the mix of voices in the industry mirrors that of our customers, then the stronger I believe the digital marketing industry will become.
I would love it if an even gender split happened organically like it has in the podcasting space, where the iTunes top marketing podcasts in the UK are usually a 50:50 gender split. But as we all know from marketing on search engines, you can wait a long time for organic results!
Several big ecommerce events are running women-only speaker line ups in 2020—a bold move which I think will hugely shift the game. But for real change to happen fast, I think more events should be aiming for a 50:50 split, which would be a significant change from what I saw at the events I was involved in last year.
Speaker lineups and podcasts may seem a strange place to start, but they’re a great way to inspire the new generation of women in digital marketing. If they see women they can aspire to be like and can learn from on stages at events around the world, then they're going to realise just what's possible for them—and they're the ones who will be shaping the industry in the next 5–10 years. To make a real change, we have to inspire everyone in the industry.

While we aim for equality in all fields, that doesn’t mean we should ignore our differences, either. Instead, we should celebrate and take advantage of these differences. Michele Linn, Co-founder & CSO of Mantis Research, elaborates:

michele linn
One of the biggest opportunities I see for brands in the digital marketing space is publishing their own original research. While this tactic works incredibly well in this noisy space for many reasons, one of the ways I hope it will shape the industry is by using this research data to understand the differences between women and men.
We run many surveys and sometimes ask for gender. It's really eye-opening to see how men and women respond. Of course, you don't see differences by gender with all questions (and, we've had surveys where there are few, if any differences across the board), but it's useful to understand where women and men differ.
Then—and here's the important part—marketers need to use this data as it makes sense to improve their communications to both genders.

Acknowledging differences and uniqueness among our audience members helps us, as marketers, to build relationships and create more authentic campaigns. Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, explains why this is so important:

paige arnof fenn
More confidence in trusted content, friends and influencers than advertising: Authentic relationships are the future. Technology runs our lives more than ever, but it is relationships that drive business and commerce, so people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections. Make sure you offer several ways to talk with them and get to know them. Algorithms can only tell you so much about a customer; transactions are driven by relationships. Use automation where you can, but do not ignore the power of the personal touch. Smart speakers and voice search, live-streaming videos, AI-powered chatbots—those are just part of the upcoming trends that are here to stay! Stay relevant and be successful.

And, as we all know, there is no such a thing as overnight success. While men can help by not overlooking women when it comes to hiring for leadership and decision-making roles, women can help by becoming more aware of and confident in their own capabilities, too. As Ade Onilude, Founder & CEO of Women in Marketing CIC, shares:

ade onilude
Marketing is not immune to digital transformation: the continued growth of AI, robotics, gamification, and data—and all of this in an environment where consumers are increasingly questioning the use of their private data, transparency, and ethics. Increasingly, the differentiator will be people and their skill sets. As the influence of tech increases, key skills will be humanizing, empathy, listening, adaptability, creativity, and communication. It will be even more important to embrace lifelong learning in these areas. Companies will progressively need to factor in gender and ethnicity bias too, as this is increasingly being questioned in AI.

Ade makes an important point: As marketing technology continues to evolve, it will no longer be optional to have women taking an equal role in making decisions. The importance of gender diversity in marketing will only become more crucial for companies in the industry who want to see continued success.

Meaningful progress begins with conversations

Despite all the progress women have made in the workforce, there is still certain bias when it comes to them being leaders, strategic planners, or holding positions of seniority and influence.

The number of women in high-ranking positions is increasing globally, though. In 2019, women held 29% of senior roles, with the biggest shares in Eastern Europe and North America: 32% and 31% of senior roles, respectively. That means that for every 100 men in these influential positions, you’ll see about 25 women, more or less. And the senior level is only halfway to the C-suite. So although we’ve made progress, there’s still a lot of work to do until we reach equality on all levels in the workforce.

As our conversations with these six influential women show, gender equality in digital marketing isn’t just a nice-to-have. The inclusion of female perspectives in the industry will only become more and more important when it comes to effectively communicating with prospects and customers.

Progress in workplace gender equality begins with conversations, like the six above. Exemplary marketing in 2020 and beyond also begins with conversations—meaningful, personalized ones with prospects and customers. This International Women’s Day, consider how you can better include female employees and consumers in the conversation with your audience, and you’re sure to see the benefits.

For more on starting quality conversations with your target audience via chatbot, head to our blog or YouTube channel. Or, get even more tips and advice on conversational marketing from bot-builders in our Facebook user community.