At the moment, women are poorly represented on corporate boards; hold less than a fifth of senior roles at UK companies and experience an average gender pay gap of 14%. Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey 2018 reveals that women in the marketing industry earn less than male marketers in every sector and in every role, except that of marketing assistant. It is clear that companies have work to do to embed diversity and inclusion into the heart of their businesses.

In the run up to International Women’s Day, Marketing Week is partnering with WiQ, a women’s initiative run by technology specialist Media iQ, to explore how to better champion women’s success. At an event on 7 March entitled celebrating Women of Impact, panellists including HSBC’s global head of communications Jenny Varley, radio presenter Angie Greaves, Media iQ director of talent Clare Martin and Ruth Mortimer, managing partner at Econsultancy, will take part in a thought-provoking discussion around the issues of gender equality. Ahead of that debate, marketers from a range of sectors told us what needs to be done to close the workplace gender gap.


Tanwa Edu, CMO at Culture Whisper, highlights confidence as the central obstacle to gender parity in the workplace: “Women lack confidence to believe that they are worth the salaries that they get, to believe that they can strive to be promoted to the job [they want],” she observes. “It is about empowering and giving women the confidence – the more we can do that in the industry the better.”

Role models

If building confidence and self-esteem is key to enabling women’s career progression, both mentoring programmes and having female role models are powerful drivers. Andria Vidler, CEO of Centaur Media, which publishes Marketing Week, admires high-profile initiatives within marketing including networking group WACL, WPP’s Stella women’s network and WiQ, which is a grassroots diversity initiative.

“Having senior role models has helped women grow within Centaur, where previously there were very few senior women,” she says. “Four of our six board members and over 50% of our senior leadership team are female.”


Anna Hill, CMO for UK, Ireland & Nordics at The Walt Disney Company, underlines the importance of having the right processes in place to recognise, develop and reward female talent.

“In general, the media and marketing industries represent women very well but of course there’s always room for improvement,” she states. “All organisations would benefit from more mentoring and sponsorship of high-potential female employees to help them with getting the experience and visibility that positions them for senior roles.”

Of course, men must play a role in promoting women’s success too. “It’s only when I had a daughter it became a visceral personal reaction for me,” says Media iQ president Richard Dunmall. “I just want her to have the best shot at being successful, the same choices as anyone else, and I’m not sure that’s the case in society right now.”


If women are leaving a business in disproportionate numbers or the pipeline of female talent is not available, there could be a culture problem that needs fixing. Jenny Varley, global head of digital communications at HSBC, argues that creating an environment where women can thrive at work might mean subverting the culture of organisations to allow for changes such as flexible working.

“It is really important to be mindful of the pressures outside work and openly acknowledge them,” says Varley. “And also, the disproportionate duties that a woman has when it comes to caring and having to take a career break.”

Taking action

It is clear that there is now a greater awareness in the industry about the challenges it faces. It needs to eliminate blind spots on company boards as well as pay gaps. It needs to redesign working environments to enable a woman to juggle her career and family. It needs to focus on developing female talent.

“These issues are so big and so important and we look to big organisations to solve them,” comments Helen Tupper, commercial marketing director at Microsoft. “They definitely do need to work at that level, but while that is going on there is accountability we can all take as individuals or hiring managers; things like getting mentors, eliminating gender-biased language from job descriptions and being a role model.”