From the Calgary Marketing Association’s Women Leaders in Marketing Panel Discussion
On May 25th, I had the pleasure of joining Carol Shmygol, Senior Vice-President of Reputation & Brand, ATB Financial and Yvette Biggs, Vice-President of Marketing & Communications, United Way of Calgary and Area, for a panel discussion moderated by Jan Wood, Vice President Calgary Marketing Association on Women Leaders in Marketing.
Through candid conversation and some great Q&A, we had a thought-provoking discussion on Women Leaders in Marketing. In particular, our experience, thoughts, and advice on how we can advance more women into senior-level roles and what some of the barriers might be today.
In case you missed it, here were some of the highlights:
1. Know Your Value
Be confident in what you bring to the workplace (hint: if you haven’t done it in a while, update your resume, it might just give you a confidence boost). Too often, as women, we dismiss or downplay our abilities and qualifications. And remember, ‘compensation’ should not be an awkward or uncomfortable topic. If you know your value, and take an appropriate, professional and well thought-out approach (for example, outlining the value you bring to your role/organization and are open to non-monetary growth opportunities), you will be surprised what possibilities can unfold.
2. The Power of Mentorship & Sponsorship
Seek out Mentors that will provide you with helpful context, thoughtful advice, and actionable suggestions. These can be internal or external to your organization. When you think of Sponsorship, think of people that would put your name forward when there are chances for advancement or growth. Often Mentors can become Sponsors and it’s through your commitment, follow-through, and achievements that you can build advocates. And for those more ‘senior’, this is an opportunity to give back and tell deserving candidates, “you have so much potential, my goal is to seek opportunities to help you advance” – some very powerful, confidence-building words.
3. Balance is Out, Harmony & Integration ARE In
Attaining balance during normal working circumstances is hard to imagine, add COVID-19 and working from home, childcare, quarantine and it’s simply unattainable. Words that seem to better resonate with working women are ‘harmony’ and ‘integration’. Through increased work flexibility and ‘permission’ (time and space) to at times focus on yourself, these words set a more realistic tone of what we can strive for. Whether you have a family or are single, work client-side or agency-side, let’s be clear – we are all deserving of work life harmony through finding better ways to integrate our professional and personal lives. A few helpful tips: Ask for help – what are things you can outsource? If you have a partner, have you split both the mental and physical workload? How do you create energy for more worthwhile activities, by removing non-value-add, day-to-day decisions (think what to wear? what to eat?), through routine and processes (think weekly rotations, dinner planning Sundays, or pizza Fridays).
4. Representation Matters
By having greater diversity of race, ethnicity, and gender identities in senior Marketing roles, we can ensure that the unique qualities associated, will foster an environment that is more reflective of those working in Marketing at all levels.
5. Revamping Parental leave
Many working parents in Marketing have the desire to stay more connected during parental leave. Connection could be facilitated through better off ramping and on ramping during parental leave. This could mean keeping your email active during leave, participating in larger team meetings/events, and/or check-ins with your leader at mutually agreed to intervals. There is also room for greater diversity of leave – splitting between spouses, shared job roles, etc. through greater conversation.
6. Sharpen Your Skill Set
If you have ambitions to move up in leadership, in addition to growing your self-awareness to assess how you show up for others in your organization, it can be helpful to do an inventory of your skill set. Review job descriptions for titles you aspire to one day have and do an audit of what you might be lacking. Then get to work tackling some of the gaps. From financial literacy to public speaking to gaining board experience, there are lots of organizations focused on building these skills. And remember as a Marketer, like every good brand, our goal should be to recognize and elevate our strengths and neutralize our weaknesses.
7. Two-Way Street
While organizations can contribute to the criteria, structure, and processes that will foster greater representation of women in senior Marketing roles, there is a personal obligation as well. By having the tangible skill set required to advance and appropriately voicing ambitions, you can increase your chances for success.
8. Inclusive Conversation
For women to advance to more senior leadership Marketing roles in more representative numbers, we need everyone to be a part of this important conversation. Their awareness, perspective, support, and ultimately sponsorship will make all the difference.
9. Have Fun
This can feel like a heavy topic, but it shouldn’t be. Part of what can help advance the careers for women is cultivating greater happiness at work and truly being unapologetically yourself. During these unprecedented times, don’t forget to be kind to yourself and others, a simple yet powerful leadership skill.
10. Be the Change
There’s so much each of us can do to pave a better path for those rising up through Marketing today. Let’s be better role models, mentors, and sponsors. Let’s amplify the voice of those that don’t have one. Let’s help create better processes. Let’s just do it.
There’s no simple or magical solution when it comes to the complex subject of gaining greater representation of deserving women in senior Marketing roles. However, it’s our hope that important conversations like this panel discussion provide a catalyst for further dialogue with your own network of colleagues, family, and friends.
About the Author
Vanessa Barretto is a Director at Shaw Communications where she has held a variety of roles including Brand, Marketing, Business Planning and Product Development. She’s a passionate consumer marketer with progressive experience leading business and marketing strategy, integrated/digital-first campaigns and high performing teams. Her experience spans the Telecommunications, Consumer Packaged Goods, Grocery Retail and Dental Industries. She is a former Chair and Board Member of the Calgary Marketing Association. She holds an B.Comm from the Haskyane School of Busines and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business. In her spare time, she does her best to keep up with her 2.5-year-old and 1-year-old.