International Women’s Day - Adtech leaders on what has been a male-dominated sector

By AdNews | 8 March 2022
Credit: Brianna Tucker via Unsplash.

For International Women’s Day, AdNews caught up with leaders in the adtech sector, asking a series of questions:

What would be your #1 piece of career advice for women about to enter the adtech industry?

Kathryn Carter, general manager APAC, Snap Inc: “The advertising and technology industries have typically been male-dominated which can create certain cultures and norms, and sometimes barriers for women.

"Whilst there has been a lot of progress in diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s important to understand the culture of the company you’re looking to work for, and ensure they will support your growth and success.

“Whether it’s the ratio of women in leadership, or actionable DEI goals the organisation is working to, there are a couple of telling signs that an organisation is focussed on equal opportunity. As an example, Snap supports action on diversity, equity and inclusion both through our Diversity Annual Report, and local partnerships and commitments.

“In 2020, we laid out a comprehensive strategy to drive the change needed within the company, the products and our larger ecosystem of partners and vendors. Last year alone, women in tech leadership roles increased by 7% and women now make up 50% of our Board of Directors.”

Samantha Ramlu, managing director – method, M Theory: “ My best, and simplest, piece of advice would be to be yourself. The majority of the industry is male, there’s no hiding that. Don’t suppress yourself. Don’t lose yourself. Don’t change who you are. And don’t fit to the industry.

"The industry needs to change to fit you, and me, and others like us. Bring your whole self and be proud of that. Find like-minded women, advocates and champions who recognize what’s great about you and not only support you but lift you up. Make some waves and then ride them."

Rachel Page, general manager sales ANZ, Yahoo: “Back yourself and your ability.

“I wish someone had told me that back in 2011. I was at oOh!media at the time and knew the industry, media sales, and the people inside-out. I was approached to lead sales at one of the fastest growing digital publishers around, my first venture into the world of adtech.

“The move sparked some backlash across the industry and some questioned why they’d put me in that role. Whether it was because of my non-digital background or because of my gender I’ll never know. But regardless, I really had to back myself and prove they’d made the right decision.

“When I think of my two daughters and the future I want for them, I reflect on the advice and support my incredible mum would give. She was often amazed by the progress women had made from her generation to mine …. so, she always encouraged me to absolutely go for it!"

Cassandra Cameron, EGM, revenue strategy & operations at JCDecaux Australia: “Media and adtech have historically been male dominated industries and while things are slowly shifting, there is still a lot of work to do to achieve true gender equality.

“Given countless studies show that women are generally less likely than men to promote themselves amongst their peers, my #1 piece of advice to women entering this industry is to be confident, be proud and take ownership of your own career. Know your strengths as well as your limitations and don’t be afraid to promote yourself to pursue your career goals.”

Crisna Hai, senior manager, independent agencies & performance ANZ at InMobi: “Build strong professional support networks from an early stage. The ad tech industry is fast-paced, constantly changing, and competitive. Creating a strong network from the start — one where you are on track with the key influencers in the industry — will help you get ahead.

“Step out of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to reach out to people you don't know or connect with colleagues across all divisions in your organisation.

"You can also build connections and your network by attending industry events, like webinars led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and join organisations committed to supporting women in their careers. Listening to your peers' stories, challenges, and advice will provide you with valuable knowledge and help you see different points of view and ways of working.

“Finally, and most importantly, seek out a mentor that inspires you. Someone who can help you further your career.”

Sandra Lu, head of solutions, Fivestones: “Develop your design thinking abilities, which allows you to view the problem from a fresh perspective, provides clarity, and inspires you to think creatively about it.

“The advantage of the design [thinking] approach is that it doesn't force you to know precisely what you want. It allows you to explore your job options by leading you along.”

Have you noticed a difference in the attitude of male leaders in your company since gender imbalance in the workforce has been more in the news over the last few years (such as #metoo)?

Erica Tan, head of finance and operations, Impressive: “I would say the attitude shift of male leaders in the tech and ad tech industry has been positive, especially in the past five years.

“As a woman in the tech industry, I've noticed it becoming increasingly common for females to be in leadership roles. There is a lot of awareness about balancing the gender headcounts.

“Personally, I feel like my voice is being heard and taken on board.

“I believe that success comes down to four pillars: 1) informing the audience in terms they understand; 2) upgrading skills and staying up-to-date with new technology; 3) presenting facts and figures; and 4) balancing pragmatism with empathy."

Ayaan Mohamud, VP Marketing, APAC at “There has certainly been a change in the way gender imbalance, inherent bias and casual sexism is talked about by male leaders and we’re now seeing (as well as talking about) demonstrable change across the industry. Initiatives like 'Be The Change' which challenges men to help women drive industry change are cutting through the platitudes to spur action and should lead to better outcomes for gender equality.

“I’m fortunate to work for a business that walks the talk; I’m a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Ambassador alongside our APAC MD Adam Furness and have seen firsthand how feedback from our team has led to more open conversations and changes to internal policies.

“The reality remains, however, that women are still under represented at the most senior level across the whole industry so the journey is far from over.”

What needs to change in order for women to progress to the most senior level of adtech?

Som Puangladda, regional marketing Lead APAC at TotallyAwesome: ““Adtech’s senior management is dominated by men and us women around the globe have been joining forces to break the ceiling. There’s no lack of female talent in the adtech space but what needs to change is the support for us to thrive - secure that seat at the table, that speaking slot on leading adtech stages or the quotes in leading research papers.

“The increased share of female voice in this space is key to making adtech a stronger, better and safer space. I challenge companies to hire women into male dominant roles, not for career path or diversity reasons only but for building more female leaders in the space.”

How has (if it has) the adtech industry changed for the better during your career when it comes to gender equality?

Fiona Chilcott, chief people officer at Enero Group: “Throughout my career, I have seen gender equality shift for the better. It’s great to see our industry introducing a number of initiatives which encourage diversity and inclusion, whether it’s focused on hiring practices, elevating a new generation of leaders, or offering more flexibility for working parents. I truly believe we make better decisions and produce creative and innovative work when we have a diverse workforce. A workforce that’s inclusive of different voices which contribute to the way we work and how we service our clients.”

“Even so, no matter the improvement we’ve seen over the years, there is still a lot to be done. We are an industry where women already make up majority of the workforce, however that representation significantly decreases in leadership and senior creative roles. We need to continue to open doors, celebrate and recognise women’s talents and the inspirational work that they do – to create the culture we want and make a difference.”

Josephine Lanzarone, APAC leader for marketing, Pluralsight: “The need for diverse thinking in teams, the prevalence of unconscious biases towards women, and difference in perceptions towards women and men that work from home have come under the spotlight in recent years. The attitudes of male leaders across the industry have shifted accordingly and materialised in the way that companies and governments are still iterating and learning how to achieve diversity balance in leadership.

“However, there’s still a lot of room for improvement to ensure the next generation of role models have the opportunity to thrive in productive organisation and work how they want to work. I’ve been proud to see a significant and intentional effort to create a healthy working environment at Pluralsight.”

Flo Lau, head of creative, Shutterstock: “There have definitely been some changes for the better during the span of my 15 year career when it comes to gender equality in the Adtech industry.

“Particularly in the past two years, I’ve seen serious momentum in the dedicated focus on DEI initiatives and internal employee resource groups in the workplace, and in women and people of colour in leadership positions.

“With that being said, there’s still a long way to go. If we are to see continued and sustainable change, we need to see more recruitment strategies of which retention is a key success metric, so we are not only building, but also retaining, a diverse Adtech talent pipeline.”

Lena Lepojevic, account management director, APAC, DoubleVerify: “The biggest change is that there is an open conversation happening about it and, I hope, a real desire to tilt the scales.

“However, although there is an increase in the number of women in leadership roles, more needs to be done if we have a hope of reaching anything like parity anytime soon. It’s critical for women entering the industry to see women in prominent positions.

“At DoubleVerify there are a number of women in our leadership team and I know this is incredibly inspiring for the female members of our organisation.

“I’d like to think that a combination of advances in prioritising STEM education in schools, a soon to be Gen Z workforce, hybrid working and a broader cultural shift will advance the cause over time, but until then, a considered approach to diverse hiring and promotions should be a priority for our industry.”

Juliette Stead, head of JPAC, Magnite: “I’ve worked in our industry for more than 20 years and I’m thankful that some of my earlier experiences are a thing of the past.

“While there’s no doubt women now have better representation across all areas of the industry, we still have a very long way to go before we achieve equality.

“As I’ve worked my way through the industry into increasingly senior roles, it’s become very clear to me that we need a broad range of voices from people with different personalities, backgrounds, and genders to encourage richer conversations.

“Diversity of skills, perspectives, and professional experience will be what underpins the success of our industry into the future.”

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