An analysis by the auditing and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that only a fifth of all top jobs in the retail and consumer goods industry are filled by women. The number of women at the top also decreases with increasing company size. However, women have always been relatively strongly represented in the marketing industry, where the quota of female managers averages 34 percent*.
We spoke to five top female marketers about what qualities make women ideal for these top positions.
Jutta Meyer, Executive Vice President Marketing & Creation at the ProSiebenSat.1 Group, believes ‘Empathy’ is one of the most critical skills for success in today’s marketing world:
Research shows that women are often naturally gifted with a high level of Empathy, i.e. sensing other people’s experience and understanding their needs, perspectives and feelings. Empathy is not “sympathy” or “being nice” but it is a true skill that allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on your consumers or your people and to develop your strategies accordingly. Empathy also includes scanning large sets of quantitative and qualitative data, sorting out what’s noise and what’s crucial information. Empathy allows you to spot signals and new patterns that jump out and make you realize something important is going on.
Innovation is all about deeply understanding consumer needs. Great innovation comes from truly putting yourselves in the shoes of consumers. But not only that: If you perfectly understand the human environment, in which you lead your organization or your brands or in which you negotiate deals, your predictions and decisions are better, you develop your people better, you communicate more clearly and you will excel in negotiations because you have an improved sense of your counterpart’s desires and willingness to lean in or step out.
Lea-Sophie Cramer, Founder and Advisory Board Member at AMORELIE, finds that women in top marketing jobs makes perfect business sense:
Having women represented in top marketing positions should be a no-brainer for three reasons:
First, because women control 70-80 percent of total consumer spending. They not only buy for themselves but also for their family, their household and their partners. As a female top marketing manager you are closer to these “controllers” of consumer spending. You bring personal experience to the table and you understand and see potential in products that men simply might not see (think about period-proof underwear like ooshi).
Secondly, because more diverse teams bring 19% more revenue due to innovation. A more diverse top marketing team simply brings better results.
Thirdly, because characteristic and skills typically associated with women, such as innovation, creativity or empathy, are particularly crucial in marketing decisions. It is essential to have these skills covered in your top marketing team.
Obviously, performance does not depend on gender, but on skill and effort, so of course there are great male marketeers as well. But recruiting a woman for a top marketing position has also nothing to do with altruism or an act of gender equality, it is simply a matter of taking the best shot at business opportunities.
Jennifer Schwade, CEO of Munich shapewear start-up shape me, thinks female marketers rely more on their intuition and are able to examine topics from different perspectives:
In general, I am of the opinion that every company needs women just as much as it needs men, no matter what the field. The fact is you don't choose a woman or a man, but a specific person. There are actually more women than men working for us, but for marketing, which is very much focused online, we actually have a man in charge.
As a female founder, I naturally support and encourage women a lot because I have learned over time that together we are even stronger and can and must push and support each other. Male founders use networks and contacts much more than women and are less shy of this, so it is all the more important that we women also join forces and talk about our business. Women approach many topics from a different angle, they rely more on their intuition than on facts and figures. I think a mixture of both is the key.
For Aimie-Sarah Carstensen, Founder and CEO of edutainment brand ArtNight, marketing demands innovation, creativity and teamwork which female marketing professionals excel at:
Women in top marketing positions are extremely important. They often approach a situation differently than men and try to include different perspectives. I think that qualities such as openness, creativity, curiosity, but also a talent for organisation are crucial when it comes to driving a company forward and developing innovations. Furthermore, women are often courageous at trying out new things and gaining new ideas and perspectives by talking to others. And particularly in marketing, what is needed above all in addition to data-driven advocates are creative minds and people with strong communication skills. Above all, communication strength is a successful characteristic of women.
Empathy continues to play a major role, since in marketing, too, one works closely in a team. Being able to put oneself in the position of other team partners and to show empathy in challenging phases is a significant advantage in order to work effectively and productively on joint projects and activities, especially in difficult times. Women usually perceive tension in the team more quickly and can therefore react faster. In order to strengthen the all-important team cohesion, women are often the people who express praise and value success of any kind. For them, mutual motivation is as important as mutual inspiration.
Janina Kraus, CRM Team Lead at online beauty shop flaconi, sees women’s ability to think in terms of both emotions and data as key to success in the marketing industry:
In my opinion, marketing - due to its integration with technical and data-related areas as well as emotional fields in the company - is one of the most complex disciplines. It requires the combination of the right skills and strengths and the creation of synergies. In my experience, women in particular, with their complex thinking skills, know how to give more dimensionality to rational problems or decisions.
In addition, women often have a strong empathy that makes it easier for them to adopt different perspectives and to put themselves in the position of others. These skills can create enormous added value at various levels - they are especially essential in the marketing context. Most purchasing decisions are made by women, so it is important to be able to put yourself in a woman's head when designing and communicating advertising material.
Farina Schurzfeld, Co-Founder and CMO at online mental health platform Selfapy, sees character rather than gender playing a vital role:
The most essential trait for a successful CMO is good communication skills and creativity regarding WHEN to communicate WHAT to WHOM. And as we as women tend to talk more, this gives us potentially the upper hand. Generally however I don't see gender playing a major role, rather it is important to have the right character and this is mostly defined in upbringing and childhood.
A good CMO in my opinion has a long-term vision of the brand positioning, a strategic understanding of all marketing channels and how they can be steered towards growth (in the right mix), a collaborative approach to integrate into other teams as well as to tie into the overall company strategy and the ability to authentically and effectively communicate internally but also externally and build long term relationships with stakeholders.