Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital Women: Rebecca Ackers, MD for UK & Nordics at Magnite – Leading with empathy

NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular challenges, and opportunities faced by women. Next up is Rebecca Ackers, MD for UK & Nordics at Magnite

What is the biggest opportunity for women in your sector of the digital industry today?

There are various opportunities for women in the digital sector, however for me, the main standout is the opportunity for women to bring a different leadership style to the industry. I have given keynotes at both eMpower and Women in Programmatic about the opportunities women have to lead with empathy. Of course, this isn’t something only women can do, but having more varied leadership perspectives will allow people to be empowered to be themselves.

One focus of empathetic leadership is allowing your teams and colleagues to be their authentic selves; helping them harness their individual strengths and embrace their emotions to support their career growth.

A great example of this is public speaking, something people are often reluctant to put themselves forward for. When this is the case, I encourage people to reframe their fear of this and embrace the opportunity they’ve been presented with. 

Leading with empathy will encourage employees out of their comfort zones and enable them to grow and develop in their careers.

What is the biggest challenge to women in the digital industry and how are you overcoming it?

One of the biggest challenges for women in all work, not just the digital industry, is raising a family while working, with research revealing nearly half of full-time mums found the return to work a negative experience.

There are lots of challenges that everyone, men and women, faces during their working lives – finding the balance between raising a family and maintaining a thriving career is a huge challenge. It’s critical that leaders in all industries speak up and take action to help women overcome the challenge raising a family can present during their careers.

The issue around pay and the length of parental leave still stands. If we want to create a truly equitable work environment, it’s important for those in senior positions to consider the support they offer to men and women who choose to have children.

This can range from shared parental leave to pay, but shouldn’t stop there as business leaders must think about how they welcome new parents into the workforce. Are they coming back to a role that they’re excited about? How are businesses making that transition easier? These are both important questions to consider.

What can employer companies do to make the digital industry better for women?

If a business prioritises and promotes parental leave – regardless of gender – this will allow both women and men that all-important team bonding time as they become new parents and adjust how they will balance managing a career with looking after children. In fact, research has found men who took paternity leave say it helped them form stronger bonds with their partners and children.

What support structures and organisations are most important and effective to you as a woman in the digital industry?

The support structures within organisations that are most impactful to me are those that empower women to empower themselves. A great example of an organisation that does this is Women in Programmatic, which helps women to meet like-minded people in the digital sector.

They create opportunities for women to come together and also support women in the digital industry. They facilitate training sessions where people highlight knowledge gaps and they take action over industry challenges like the gender imbalance of public speaking opportunities.

Another important organisation is Bloom, which provides proactive opportunities for senior women to mentor those just starting out in their career. As a Bloom mentor myself, I have found their mentorship scheme incredibly rewarding and a great foundation for building a supportive network for women in the digital industry.

How do we make the industry more equitable for everyone?

It’s essential that businesses and leaders approach people as individuals and recognise their individual needs. We can do this by creating a workplace environment that allows both men and women to have a choice. Whether this is from allowing people to have flexibility on how they split parental leave to encouraging employees to step out of their comfort zones for career growth, it’s all about making sure we are making the industry more equitable for everyone.