5 Women Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling in the Digital World: Not to be a Man

Cover above: From top left clockwise: Kate Kendall, Founder and CEO CloudPeeps, Simone Skoog, Managing Director GroupM Digital Sweden, Talia Wolf, CEO Conversioner, Alix de Sagazan, co-founder AB Tasty and Jessie Liu, co-founder Siteber.

In the UK, between 2002 and 2015, the number of women in the digital industry hasdropped from 33% to 26% and, unfortunately, women still get paid substantially less than men for identical jobs. But are things about to change?

Despite the bleak statistics we set out to feature some of those women who, against the odds, have successfully broken the glass ceiling and asked them about their view on the gender gap in this traditionally male-dominated industry and what can be done to promote change.

Talia Wolf is the CEO of Conversioner, points out the corporate responsibility in making change possible: “The pay gap is still shocking and needs immediate care, companies that do have representation in senior positions are rarely joined by other women and are constantly in need to prove themselves to their male counter-parts.” Increasing awareness and providing equal opportunities are across genders have been the melody in the gender debate for some time, but are employers really responsive?: “I’ve always been convinced that a fair representation of both genders leads to a broader set of ideas and a better business, but I don’t believe in positive discrimination. I hire the best people regardless of their gender and treat men and women as equals. Naturally, it means that for the same work women and men should get paid the same. I make sure this is the case.”, says our very own co-founder and strong-woman Alix de Sagazan, who employs 38% women at AB Tasty, comfortably above the 26% industry average.

But it’s not all about employer attitude. “One of my favourite parts of being an entrepreneur is being able to build a company in the digital industry in a way that allows both women and men to dedicate themselves to their work, goals and personal growth. Though I see many women taking on higher positions and more complicated roles in companies, there is so much more we can do to promote excellence and ensure women and men are no longer judged by their gender, but by their own actions”,continues Talia.

Jessie Liu, co-founder of digital agency Siteber, underscores the underrepresentation of women in the digital industry but also tells us that the opportunity for women to excel is up for grabs: “I think one large factor is the disparity between the way males and females self-promote. I was always taught to step up, speak up and always seize more opportunities. The digital marketing itself is actually quite female-friendly and as women are becoming more confident in self-promotion and senior leadership roles, there would be a more equal representation in the industry.”

Jessie’s message is echoed by the CloudPeep’s founder and CEO Kate Kendall: “While there’s been an increase of women working in digital or technology-related roles, we’re still seeing a shortage of females who are rising to senior positions, starting their own companies, and having access to capital. We need to play an active role in not only building a pipeline of talent but also in rewarding and supporting those at a later stage if we want to make real change.”

Companies in the digital industry are often stereotyped as being led by avant-garde, t-shirt-wearing, Apple-loving men with big plans for technological disruption and conquest. No time to waste as the market evolves rapidly and decisions need to be made with as little delay as possible. A little intimidating, perhaps? “I do think that sometimes to be included in certain conversations within digital, we have to insert ourselves because we’ll never be asked. It’s crucial we do so in a thoughtful and meaningful way. There’s no point in being the loudest in the room just to be the loudest in the room.”

Simone Skoog, Managing Director for GroupM Digital in Sweden, knows a thing or two about what a career-minded woman might face in the industry: “So far, being a woman in the digital industry has been quite lonely. Until recently you didn’t see that many females above line manager positions. Few on C-levels and members of the board”.  

“As a woman in leadership, you need to, regardless of the industry – consider and constantly reflect upon how you portray and display yourself. Probably, this is more important to women than men. This goes from body-language, tone of voice, dress-code, and especially your public appearance and presentations. If you’d like to be perceived as a strong leader, you need to use vocal pitch that is associated with authority and mandate. Your body language needs to be a bit more de-coded from specific feminine moves – no twinning of hair etc. – to avoid being subject to master suppression techniques. You need to find your own authentic persona – not to be a man, nor being too feminine.

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