Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

IWD 2024: How can the industry better support women?

This International Women’s Day, New Digital Age reached out to some of the sector’s leading female voices to hear their thoughts on this year’s theme and how women can be better supported by the industry.

Camilla Burchill, Senior Creative Strategist – Tech and Innovation, Tactical

“Supporting women in tech starts by giving them a real seat at the table. Performative diversity and inclusion initiatives are transparent and usually, a waste of time. So, whilst allocating gender-based quotas might be controversial to some, it’s necessary for achieving equality in leadership, and ultimately enabling infrastructural change.

“We’re living in a time where Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z converge in the workplace, all with their own perceptions of inclusivity. We need to re-educate everyone, from school children to working adults, about treating women and minorities fairly. This means tackling conscious and unconscious bias head-on. The industry won’t change until we do.

“Then, there’s money. There’s an incredible lack of visibility around gender-based pay discrepancies, but I’ve seen first-hand how wide the gap is – even at the top. Why is it so hard to understand that women deserve equal pay? This isn’t just about fairness; it’s about making sure talented women are genuinely valued for what they do.

“Lastly, men simply need to support women. Pull the seat out for us, promote infrastructural change – and pay us more. This is the only way to build an industry where everyone truly feels welcome and able to thrive.”

Carolyn Reilly, Director of Publisher Development, Cedara

“To better support women in the tech industry, it’s crucial to foster an inclusive environment that recognises and addresses the challenges they face. We must continuously strive to understand these challenges and work collectively to find effective solutions. While strides have been made, there’s always room for improvement, and the spotlight on this issue should remain bright.

“The tech industry can take a more significant collective responsibility by empowering women regardless of their background or circumstances. Every individual, regardless of race, age, religion, parental status, or gender identity, should have a seat at the table.

“Let’s advocate for an industry where women and non-binary individuals not only feel welcome but also empowered to pursue their ambitions. Building such a space not only fosters innovation but also strengthens diversity and contributes to overall growth.

“I’m grateful for the supportive leaders I work with, who value and champion my contributions every day. However, this support should not be seen as a privilege but as a fundamental aspect of creating a more inclusive tech industry. By extending support universally, we can cultivate more role models, inspiring future generations to pursue careers in tech.”

Felicity Dudley, Marketing Director, EMEA, DoubleVerify

“The theme of Inspire Inclusion for International Women’s Day 2024 really hits home for me. I strongly believe that achieving gender equality is something that not just the industry, but society as a whole, needs to actively work on, regardless of differences across gender and personal and professional values. When it comes to inspiring inclusion, I see it as an invitation to ensure that women have a real say in important decisions, no matter who they are or what their roles or titles in the workplace or in society indicate.

“There are some crucial things we can do to amplify the voices of women. Change starts with being aware of the biases that inform interpersonal interactions, and making a conscious effort to address these biases. It’s important to speak up against sexism and those subtle, but hurtful, microaggressions.

“One way to inspire inclusion is through mentorship and support. There are many initiatives and networks that are fantastic examples of creating a space where women can share their experiences and lift each other up. I’ve personally seen the positive impact of such networks, where women are encouraged to go after opportunities without letting self-doubt hold them back.

“As an industry, in order to navigate towards further inclusion, every individual has a responsibility to play a part in creating an environment where every woman feels a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment in the workplace and in society. International Women’s Day reminds us that the journey toward inclusion is ongoing, and it’s something we all have a role in shaping.”

 Husna Grimes, VP Global Privacy, Permutive

“Addressing the gender gap and supporting women in the tech industry requires a multifaceted approach. Companies must make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) commitments, focusing on senior and executive levels, ensuring representation that paves the way for those at earlier career stages.

“Education and collaboration are great areas to start. For talent, companies can work with specialised search firms to help diversify talent pools, especially at executive levels. For the hiring process, it’s essential to combat unconscious bias through education, provide training on inclusive interviewing, embed measurement and accountability within the business to track gender metrics and monitor fair recruitment practices.

“To bridge the gender pay gap, companies should establish equitable remuneration policies, acknowledging the unpaid efforts – such as leading or participating in employee resource groups, organising team events, and arranging gifts – of women in maintaining a positive workplace culture. Providing exciting opportunities for skill development, backed by senior leadership support, fosters professional growth. Increasing the visibility of women through speaking engagements and industry conferences, alongside a commitment to diverse panels, reinforces inclusivity.

“Investing in formal leadership development opportunities, connecting women with mentors and sponsors, and celebrating their achievements are vital to supporting women’s progress in the tech industry. A comprehensive strategy combining leadership commitment, systemic changes, and cultural recognition is essential for achieving gender parity in tech.

“To establish an inclusive culture, companies need to break down gender stereotypes. Defaulting to flexible working and advocating equal parental leave eliminates any assumptions about women as caregivers, ultimately penalising their earnings and career potential as it keeps them out of the workplace for longer. Offer coaching to those returning after parental leave, share progression opportunities with women during parental leave, and implement other inclusive policies for menopause, early pregnancy loss, and fertility support.”

Vicky Foster, VP Global Commercial Partnerships, Adform

“As a woman in the tech industry, I firmly believe allyship should be at the core of our sector. We must collectively take greater responsibility for creating a more cohesive work culture that promotes inclusion. This can be achieved through continuous education, going beyond gender boundaries, and not just acknowledging women on occasions like International Women’s Day. It requires us to confront our privileges and actively work towards creating a more inclusive environment through our actions.

“Being an effective ally also means having strong listening skills, especially when interacting with marginalised communities. Inclusion can be achieved by understanding and learning from the diverse perspectives these groups offer. It is important to remember that allyship is not just about passive support but also about actively advocating for and standing up for individuals.

“The benefits of fostering a diverse and inclusive environment are immense, not only in terms of promoting happiness and connections but also in driving business success. Ultimately, allyship leads us towards a workplace where inclusion is not just a goal but a vibrant reality, creating a harmonious, connected, and thriving organisational culture that promotes inclusion at every level.”

Millica Lukic, Account Director, Adform

“Inspiring inclusion to me, as a woman in tech, involves embracing openness, shedding judgments, and understanding diverse perspectives. As all unique individuals from varied backgrounds and identities, we should celebrate this diversity.

“We can achieve this by practising inclusive hiring, promotion, and celebration. This fosters a profound sense of belonging and helps us move away from excluding environments. Additionally, we should encourage diverse leadership, drawing upon different life experiences to empower individuals and promote progress.

“Organisations can make active efforts to diversify workplace teams and create a safe space for authenticity, especially as we commemorate International Women’s Day. Everyone, particularly women in tech, deserves to be valued and empowered.

“Though massive change takes time, embedding inclusivity into every decision will make a difference. We should not limit our world’s scope but instead make inclusivity a part of every small decision to create a more encompassing and expansive future, particularly in the tech industry.”

Jessica Rosevear, Business Development Director, EXTE

“As a working mother in the tech industry, I feel fortunate to be a part of a supportive company that values adaptable work arrangements, providing the flexibility needed to balance work and family commitments effectively. To inspire inclusion and support women in our field, more companies need to incorporate flexible working options. Improved parental leave policies, adjustable hours and remote work are just some ways to encourage working mothers to return after maternity leave and continue to thrive and progress in the workplace.

“There is also a need for more tailored mentorship and training programs, across all stages. Professional development opportunities for women to promote growth, as well as programmes to introduce young girls and teenagers to tech to give them the confidence to pursue careers in the industry are vital. At EXTE, we actively support The Women in Programmatic Network, with many team members being part of it. Fostering a supportive community and providing spaces for women to share their knowledge and have important conversations is necessary to create a more inclusive and diverse future for women in our field.”

Anna Jankowska, SVP of Global Partnerships, RTB House

“The tech industry thrives on innovation and data-driven decisions, and women have been at the forefront of these endeavours, as evidenced by their contributions to critical technological advancements and leadership within some of the world’s most influential tech companies.

“In addressing the empowerment of women in the ad tech industry, it’s essential to recognise the dual approach required: systemic change from organisations and proactive engagement from women themselves. Women in tech have shown tremendous resilience and innovation, contributing significantly to the industry’s growth and evolution. As I advocate for more inclusive and equitable workplaces, I also believe that it’s crucial for women to continue showcasing their achievements, expertise, and leadership based on merit and impact. However, it is the responsibility of companies to create the space and mechanisms that not only allow but actively encourage women to showcase these contributions.

“Moreover, encouraging a culture that values contributions based on facts, data, and delivery can further advance the cause of gender equality in the workplace. It’s about creating environments where everyone, regardless of gender, is evaluated based on their work and achievements. This not only benefits women but also fosters a more meritocratic and inclusive industry for all professionals.

“While systemic changes are crucial to support and empower women in ad tech, women also play a key role in navigating these challenges. By focusing on excellence, continuous learning, and leadership, women can further their careers and contribute to creating a more inclusive and equitable industry.”

Lena Arbery, Director of Destinations, Travel and Growth, EMEA, Tripadvisor

“‘Inspiring inclusion’ to me is about empowering women to have a seat at the table, so ‘the table’ is a collective of diverse voices and perspectives. In any organisation this can only ever lead to better decisions.

“As a mother, ‘inspiring inclusion’ means modelling it to my twins, Blythe and Arthur, nearly 12.  Whether it’s through encouraging them in the sports they do – my daughter plays football for her school as does my son, or whether it’s educating them about how far we have come but how far we need to go, ‘Inspiring inclusion’ started early in our house.

“It’s been really important to me that they see us push for a world where all women are empowered, for my daughter to believe she has a right to be included and for my son to champion her and other women as he grows up.  Inspiring Inclusion amongst our children, nurtures the building of a more equitable world for generations to come.”

Preetha Vasanji, President Emerging Markets, Doceree 

“In the advertising industry, women currently hold an impressive 70% of junior to senior positions. However, at the C-suite level, this number significantly drops to 37.5%, as reported by WACL association. While this highlights a persistent issue of gender inequality, even in progressive fields like advertising, it presents an opportunity for positive change driving which goes beyond cultural shifts; it requires structural transformations within the marketing and advertising industry. As the advertising sector faces an identity crisis, it is imperative to embrace fresh perspectives and promote inclusion at all levels.

“With over 20 years in advertising and marketing, my love for the industry and my colleagues remains steadfast. This makes me believe that women are more perceptive and self-aware and bring invaluable perspectives to leadership roles, fostering empathy and diversity across gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and age. Their ability to recruit and lead diverse teams not only reflects society as a whole but also fuels creativity, resulting in campaigns that resonate with a wide audience. This represents another area where the industry can make strides in recognizing and spotlighting the contributions of women. This progress will serve as powerful source of inspiration, driving us all towards a future where inclusivity and innovation thrive hand in hand.”

Hadar Telem, Director of Business Product Operations, INCRMNTAL

“It is widely acknowledged that more needs to be done to promote gender equality in the tech industry from the top-level. We’re still not seeing nearly enough women in senior and c-suite positions and this must be fixed.

“However, while organisations need to do more to ensure women have equal consideration and visibility, I believe that there is also room for women to promote themselves. Sometimes the lack of senior women in tech roles comes down to women doubting their expertise and capabilities, and therefore not putting themselves forward. There needs to be a mindset shift among women in tech to promote ourselves up.

“Personally, when I was a younger woman starting out in my career, I didn’t have much confidence or feel I had anything particularly unique to say. But looking back now, I can see that’s not the case. Every individual in the industry has their own unique voice that should be spoken and heard. So I’d urge all women in tech to raise their voices, stand up for what they believe, understand that they can make a lot of impact, and provide value for their workspace by getting their insights and opinions heard.

“Even if there are some women with different management styles than men’s, it is not a reason for disbelief. Inclusion of people from different scopes, ideas, points of view as well as management styles, are exactly what organisations need in order to thrive and become a truly accepting place for all its workers – regardless of gender, belief, or self-association. I believe that we should always aspire to bring the difference in ourselves and be our best versions of ourselves, and we deserve to be acknowledged for that. Once we acknowledge our own strengths, anything is possible.”

*This article features clients of Bluestripe Communications, which is owned by Bluestripe Group, publisher of NDA