Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital Women: Shirley Smith, VP Sales EMEA at Flashtalking by Mediaocean

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 Shirley Smith, VP Sales EMEA at Flashtalking by Mediaocean

  • What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in the digital industry today?

For me, the biggest challenge that women face in the digital industry is access to the industry itself. The root of the issue is two-fold; there are still unconscious biases that hamper women’s efforts to enter and succeed in the industry, and there are damaging assumptions that a specialised technical background is the only skill set that matters. All this does is put up barriers of entry to the industry and rob the industry of promising talent.

The key opportunity for women is the opposite of that challenge. Those “soft” skills that some disregard are,in reality, crucial skills needed to build a thriving, diverse and inclusive working environment. 

We must actively teach girls and women to break through those assumptions but more critically to assert themselves, which has not historically been a positive trait when attributed to women. In this industry, you have to speak up. Women need to be confident in talking about their accomplishments and acting as self-advocates. The more women speak up and contribute in typically male-dominated fields, the more we can help shatter preconceived notions and unconscious biases.

Lastly, we need to educate girls and women that there is a support network within the industry. What they need to do is find a mentor and use their network of contacts as a community. This community should include men, as they are not the enemy. Many men want to do the right things, but they don’t know how or are reticent to engage for fear of making mistakes.

  • What does the industry need to do to better champion women?

To successfully champion women the industry needs to break down boundaries and lean into conversations around gender stereotypes. And then take action by becoming a mentor, speaking at events or career fairs or even donating to organisations dedicated to increasing the presence of women in tech.

Perhaps most importantly, the industry needs to be proactively calling out the biases and inequitable behaviour that we see in the workplace. Donating time, effort or money will make a real difference in raising awareness, attracting more diverse talent, and driving more equal opportunities for both men and women. 

  • What are the biggest challenges, and opportunities overall for digital advertising this year? 

The biggest challenge across the digital ecosystem this year is the removal of cookies. Whilst the announcement from Google to remove third-party cookies may not have come as a surprise, many brands and advertisers are confused about how they can still effectively deliver and measure campaigns.

To us, though, this is an opportunity. The removal of third-party cookies opens up a new privacy-friendly ecosystem where consumers can reconnect and engage with creative campaigns rather than be pestered by the same old targeted ads! What brands and advertisers need to create is a value exchange that consumers understand — the free internet in exchange for great advertising.

  • What is your biggest achievement in digital to date?

I was most recently promoted to VP Sales EMEA at Flashtalking by Mediaocean where I continue to focus on product innovation to ensure we are providing partners with the right tools, technology and platforms to create seamless experiences for their customers. In addition, throughout lockdown, I helped many young people without experience get jobs in digital media, and it’s been great watching their careers grow.