Speaking at Dow Jones’ Women in Media 2015 event in London, three female leaders in the industry from HSBC, Dow Jones and ZenithOptimedia discussed how women are portrayed in the industry, and who is responsible for achieving gender diversity in the workplace.
Traditional research doesnt show the true extent of female power in the household, according to leading women in the media and marketing industry
Speaking at Dow Jones Women in Media 2015 event in London, Sarah Threadgould, global head of marketing communications and campaign strategy at HSBC, was joined by Katie Vanneck-Smith, chief customer officer and global managing director at Dow Jones, and Belinda Rowe, global managing partner and UK chairman at ZenithOptimedia.
The panel gathered to discuss how women are portrayed in the industry, and what these key businesses are doing to achieve true diversity in the workplace.
We spend a lot of time thinking about audiences and who to talk to, specifically to influence brand purchase, said Vanneck-Smith. I think more and more research is showing that women are, in fact, huge influencers in the household.
Threadgould argued that many women know that they arent being accurately represented in the marketplace: Women influence cars, finances, holidays, moving house they are obviously exerting a high influence.
I tend to see advertising portraying men with cars and holidays, and women are being portrayed as worrying about their teeth and legs and clothes.
Authenticity is key
Although women have traditionally been portrayed as taking a back seat in making important household decisions, this is beginning to change and brands are starting to understand that.
Citing Procter & Gamble, Vanneck-Smith explained the FMCG giant is tapping into the emotion behind the purchasing decision with its Thank You Mom commercial for the Olympics and the recent #LikeAGirl campaign for feminine hygiene brand Always.
We all have it in ourselves and our jobs to change the way [women] are represented, she added.
Moving on to creating relationships with customers, Vanneck-Smith said that authenticity is the key: There are many brands that I dont want to have a relationship with like [UK utilities company] Thames Water I want them to know me but I dont want them to start reaching out to me via social media, I just want water out of the taps.
Ive worked on many brands where its authentic to build a relationship but it comes back to knowing your customer, whether you have a relationship with your customer depends on the brand.
Its about balance insight and instincts are just as important as each other. Every business will have a different customer equation.
The right social platform
Discussing success in social media, Rowe said that platforms like Twitter are not necessarily as important to brands as they used to be.
Having content thats really authentic to the topic of audience youre talking to is important. A lot of the tweets I follow are content thats relevant and links to real articles. You have to be authentic and have great purpose to attract an audience to you.
Vanneck-Smith added: Twitter always felt like a speakers corner on crack. It was a place to share opinions now its an alerts and notifications platform. In essence, for me, its not essentially social.
The advice to marketing teams has always been to build their Facebook pages, but this isnt the case anymore. A lot of these platforms are changing quickly and its hard for brands to keep up.
We dont do ourselves any favours as brands if we dont have a clear purpose and understanding of who we are trying to target, said Rowe.
Audiences find out very quickly when brands arent being authentic and they dont appreciate it. You need to think about whats the right platform for you audience.
Confidence is key
When the discussion was opened to the floor, the panel was asked what they themselves and their businesses are doing to encourage gender diversity in the workplace.
We have a graduate programme at the beginning of each year for a long time weve been attracting graduates with a diverse range of skills, said Rowe.
Women are coming in from all walks of life, whether it be data, tech etc. Data teams are traditionally very male but theres been a shift. Its still a bit too male but its shifting and changing at ZenithOptimedia. We generally have a 50/50 balance.
We are continually fed articles and discussions around bringing more women into senior positions in the media industry, but who is responsible for making that happen? Vanneck-Smith was clear that she had no regrets about sitting on the fence with this question.
My heart says that [women] are all brilliant and that we should achieve gender equality through our own strength. But my head says that when you look at the data, maybe we need to be more radical in order to boost the figures.
I feel uncomfortable about quotas we need to earn the place in the boardroom.
All three female leaders agreed that women need to be encouraged to have confidence in order to make it to the top.
Bring empathy to the room, be strategic, and be brave, concluded Vanneck-Smith.