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Writing about, talking about or working within the advertising technology industry is not for everyone. There's a big imbalance as more men work in this space than women and never is it more obvious than on panels and conferences at events. AdNews has been living this for the last few weeks as we lock in speakers for our own events.
It's a fact that there are more men in tech and media, but is it a good enough excuse for so few women speaking at public events? My honest initial answer is “I’m not sure”.
Shouldn’t we at least try harder to unearth and fight for more female voices in this innovative ad tech landscape?
Of course we should. But the reality is that the women that are working in this field, are experts at what they do, are not always as ready, willing and able to get up on stage as their male counterparts.
I commented on a LinkedIn post recently which mentioned an ad tech roundtable event. Many participants were tagged and thanking each other for their insights. However, upon scanning the list of names the first thing that leapt out at me was, 'Hmm no women on that panel, again'.
The organiser was quick to say he’d asked three women, and for whatever reason they couldn’t make it.
It's a familiar tale. We've just announced the full line up for our own event AdNews Live! Tackling transparency. Of the 14 speakers just one is female. At our recent Media + Marketing Summit in Sydney there were significantly fewer women on stage than men.
Not for the lack of trying.
Upon asking the content director as to why, given we had several women who were deemed a great fit for topic, and were invited, for whatever reason they could not make it. Often women declined either because they can't make the date work in their schedule or because they don't want to participate, or aren't cleared to do so by their companies.
We have approached a broadly equal number of women as men, and when asking companies to nominate the most qualified person – most of the time it's a man.
We have similar experiences with seeking comment for editorial pieces. AdNews editor Rosie Baker is passionate about it and attempted to enact a policy where no features contain just male voices, and we feature at least one woman in print features such as Creative Choice, Creative Focus and The Big Question which ask for industry experts to offer an opinion.
You would not believe how many times our journalists are told there isn't female talent available.
Ok, so we secured some suitable men straight away, found the right women but they all said no, so then what? Should we double, or even triple the amount of women we ask, do we invite women who are less qualified and not the best voice for that debate, choosing diversity over having the best talent? Do we simply accept that’s the lay of the land?
We shouldn’t do either.
It’s easy for me to say not being an events organiser, but I of course lean towards opening up and expanding that target panel of women. However, if the pool is small or shrinking and many are unwilling, I feel we're stuck between a rock and a hard place.
It’s not to say we are depleted of great female ad tech and industry talent, it’d just be nice to see more and hear from more. We have a role to play as a trade media, but so, too, do the companies charged with helping push these figures forward, and in turn helping inspire the female figures that will follow in their footsteps.
Again, companies have a role here, to think about what image they are portraying to only have senior men on the radar and to question if they are putting enough women forward in senior roles too.
AdNews is not professing to be the benchmark for featuring women, but it's something we care about and we believe it's important. Just a glance at our very own historic and credible hall of fame you will see it’s packed to the rafters with talent, but all men. Finding a generation of talented, high profile women who are comfortable to take a lead does not have an overnight fix.
Ad tech has itself been long revered as a boys club and nearly two years to the day that I wrote “Women in ad tech – chasing entry to the “boys club” or taking the reins?”, many of the comments still remain true. If anything I feel there’s less top tier ad tech female talent now.
That article looked at the many great women involved in the buzzing ad tech sector and the then GM of Vivaki APAC, Grace Liau, said while generally speaking there are not enough women leaders in programmatic and ad tech, the landscape is changing, “but it needs to be a little faster”.
I wish I wasn't making the same point, but here’s no harm in reiterating it two years on and again bringing it to the forefront.
Liau has since left the Australian market for a head of media APAC gig at Google based in Tokyo. In that same article the then commercial director ANZ at The Trade Desk, Doireann Ó Brádaigh, said there is a “huge imbalance” skewed towards males in this space and it would be "incredible" to start seeing more females in senior roles. Ó Brádaigh has since left that role and is yet to resurface. Sarah Wyse and Liz Adeniji also both featured in the article, hailing from ad tech companies Videology and Rocket Fuel, with both having since moved publisher side. Jess White from Cadreon headed overseas and even looking at the broader tech space some top tier females have left super senior roles - Google's MD Maile Carnegie exited for an ANZ gig, Kate Vale left Spotify just last week and Intel's MD Kate Burleigh left this week.
While a couple of great minds may have left the Australian market or shifted away from pure ad tech companies, plenty of talent is in market such as Krux MD Jo Gaines, MCN’s chief technology and systems operations officer Angela Goodsir, Alexis Spurgeon who’s heading up CommBank’s in-house programmatic desk, Innvoid MD Carolyn Bollaci, Nine's Pippa Leary, BrightRoll DSP’s (Yahoo) Liz Adeniji, programmatic consultant Adele Wieser, Lynn Chealander – and many more.
I’d also admit that while I’ve written many ad tech features featuring women and published profiles of the great talent we have in this space, I have a magazine feature on marketing automation that's due to go online and it's largely full of all male voices due to a combination of my contacts I thought to be suitable, as well as males being put forward from the martech companies and agencies I reached out to. I would add that there is a female voice, but one in a pool of seven – is that good enough?
Should I be happy that there is one woman in my ad tech feature out of seven or eight men?
While I can’t control what others do, I can control what I write and I know there are some great women working in ad tech that I’d love to know more about, learn about and write about. If I can try to make this change myself and recognise that more needs to be done on our end too, hopefully companies out there can do the same.
While it's a broader industry issue than just ad tech, this is one of my core reporting areas. As such I am personally calling on women in ad tech, not ‘boss girls’ not ‘business chicks’ or ‘boss babes’ (yes that’s a thing in the US), but smart, capable and confident women who work in ad tech and want to have more of a voice. I’m here and I’m interested, and if you’re not sure, shouldn’t you at least try?
The same goes for the rest of the AdNews team. Women in creative should get in touch with Lindsay Bennett women in media should get to know Arvind Hickman and anyone that has a view or would be keen to speak at any upcoming events can feel free to get in touch with Rosie Baker.
*UPDATE: More than 100 people reached out after this opinion. We now have a growing LinkedIn community. Request to join here.