Women in Digital: 4 Leaders Share Their Views on the Industry

To mark International Women’s Day – which shines a spotlight on the achievements of women across the globe – we asked four clients in digital leadership roles to tell us about their career highlights with the aim of inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

And as this year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, we also asked whether they think more can be done to attract women to the digital sector.

Sarah Jordan, Digital Strategy & Transformation Consultant

Sarah has led major projects for Oxfam and the MS Society alongside Code

sarah

Q. What’s your biggest professional achievement?

Probably setting up my own business. It started as a side project and has now become something I'm keen to focus on full time, but it's only when other people recognise what you're doing and you get amazing feedback from the people you're working with that you realise it's a real thing!

In my 'day job' it's a lot of little things; the small wins that probably combine to make larger collective successes. When a member of my team told me I had inspired them to switch to a digital role, that was probably one of my proudest moments. Some of my recent projects have been based around directly using technology to help make a difference in people's daily lives, which is hugely rewarding, as is being able to directly help a charity or small social business transform what they're doing to be more successful.

I've been lucky enough to be personally recognised with inclusion in the BIMA100 Awards over the past two years as well. My mum is very proud of that one!

Q. What advice would you give to women entering the industry?

Find role models and other women in the industry that you admire and ask them to coach or mentor you. Having someone to help and advise you is really helpful – they have probably experienced the same challenges and most women really want others to succeed in the industry. It never hurts to ask and putting yourself forward for projects or taking on additional responsibility can really help raise your profile too.

Go to lots of events, be curious, meet people and grow your network, as the personal connections and networks you build are often your biggest asset and you'll learn a lot. And don't be afraid to put your hand up and ask – speaking as a manager having proactive people in your team is always great, so be that person and you'll be surprised what you can achieve.

Q. Do you think the industry could make positive changes to encourage more young women into a career in digital? If so, how?

Yes, lots! Explaining all the different careers that 'digital' covers would be a great starting point, as many people don't realise the full range and how creative and 'people-focused' the jobs can be; that they don’t necessarily involve coding or technical skills. More buddying and mentoring schemes would be really helpful, particularly for women in the middle of their careers to help them progress to more senior and leadership positions. Promoting women and giving them a platform to speak and encourage others would help too – there's a great quote that “If you can't see it, you can't be it” and I really believe that's true. We need more female role models at every level in digital to help show it's possible to those thinking about coming into the industry.

Greater flexibility from employers to help women get into new roles and gain experience, as well as move around within them, would also help. For me it's more about having a flexible, curious and positive mindset that helps with a career in digital, as well as communication / influencing skills and being able to work with people. The more specialist or technical skills can be learnt, so don't be put off by not having those to start with – practical experience is more useful, so find some way of gaining that and just try it.

Charlotte Murray, Head of Digital Marketing

A member of the senior management team at JCT600, Charlotte influences cultural change within the company. Driving digital engagement and understanding, shes challenges industry norm to successfully deliver a consumer-led strategy.

Charlotte

Q. What’s your biggest professional achievement?

Being invited to present at the 2016 Automotive Management Digital Marketing conference was a pivotal moment for me. As Head of Digital in an already male dominated sector, to be recognised and identified as somebody who could bring value to this annual conference gave me an enormous sense of achievement.

Q. What advice would you give to women entering the industry?

I would like to think the workplace has moved on considerably over time, but nevertheless, we still have a long way to go. I’m a firm believer that your attitude is your only limitation so to consider yourself an equal is key. To quote Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Q. Do you think the industry could make positive changes to encourage more young women into a career in digital? If so how?

Similar to automotive, there seems to be a natural sway for women into the more communicative roles as opposed to technical. The automotive sector is working hard to shift this balance and now boasts women in more technical roles such as service managers and technicians, as well as senior leaders. For me personally, my desire on leaving education was to take a technical role, which I was quickly discouraged from pursuing. I was lucky that I managed to steer my career in a direction that now sees me having broad skills and experience, enabling me to bridge the gap between technical and operations. More recently, education and career advice is certainly less gender-specific that will hopefully encourage young women to pursue their first choice with confidence, building the foundations of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Could the industry do more? The industry needs to be ready to welcome these young women with open arms!

Lisa Watkinson of Brother UK

Lisa is responsible for the ongoing success of Brother UK's websites and digital assets, spearheading the transformation of the brand becoming a digital publisher within the B2B space

Lisa

Q. What’s your biggest professional achievement?

It would definitely be building my digital team from scratch – originally it was just me! I was able to recruit people with the right mix of skills and attitudes to achieve our goals around digital transformation.

Q. What advice would you give to women entering the industry?

I’m a big believer in continuous learning – the digital landscape constantly changes so I’d recommend attending lots of courses, events/exhibitions, signing up to newsletters to keep up to speed. It helps you stay agile.

I’ve had to think and act quite differently in the workplace than I would do naturally; by that I don’t mean I’m not myself but you do have to make hard decisions and that’s not easy with the way you can sometimes be perceived as a woman. My advice is to not see this as a bad thing, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Being a professional is genderless – it’s making the right decision based on facts and not personal opinion.

Q. Do you think the industry could make positive changes to encourage more young women into a career in digital? If so how?

In our team, we’re 75% women so I’d say we’re bucking the trend! I’m lucky that Brother has a high number of women in Marketing and in senior positions. In more technical and software roles you can’t help but still see an imbalance with men, though. I think the best way to change this is through schools and colleges making these subjects more accessible to both sexes.

Emma Gillings of Hillarys.co.uk

Emma is responsible for the ongoing success of hillarys.co.uk and the web-blinds.co.uk

Emma

Q. Do you think the industry could make positive changes to encourage more young women into a career in digital? If so how?

Working with a large number of digital professionals – both in-house and via partner agencies we work with – you can’t help but see an imbalance in male versus females, especially in the more ‘technical’ areas of digital. With the ongoing growth of digital roles across all organisations, I think there will naturally be more young women considering a career in digital. Sharing more in-depth experiences of working in digital and highlighting how many women are benefitting from careers in this bourgeoning sector is key in attracting a more diverse workforce.

Sally

Sally Anderson, a Lead Digital Consultant at Code, suggests: “Highlighting and celebrating women who are already in the industry, especially in the more technical roles, is a positive move the industry can make as it’s not always obvious from an outsider looking in at how many women may be behind a company, discipline or movement.”

You can also read more about our thoughts on the gender gap in digital over on The Drum, where our talent director Alex Anderson discusses “Can more be done to encourage women into digital roles?”


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