I didn’t set out to solve the gender wage gap when I started Googling for ways to successfully ask for — and ideally get — a raise at work, but the click led to the United Nations’ International Women’s Day site and a call for people to be bold for change.
Many clicks and scrolls into my search, I realized that what I was looking for wasn’t as simple as getting myself a raise. I had stumbled onto a deeper, more pervasive problem than the need to continue financing my addiction to live music concerts. I realized I was an infantrywoman in the fight for gender parity.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a young female search analyst working at Horizon Media. Fortunately, Horizon is a progressive company when it comes to issues of equality and acceptance.
Still, this is an issue that goes beyond any one company. It permeates our society and our culture, and it influences my own mindset about my self-worth and the professional expectations I set for myself. I decided I had to do something about it — I had to be bold for change.
So, what does that mean, exactly? And how does it apply to a young woman in digital marketing?
The International Women’s Day site was a good starting point, but I needed more. Ernst & Young offered some great suggestions for actions we can all take in the effort to reach gender parity.
However, the most useful resource I found wasn’t online, but in person, at Bing’s Janes of Digital event in New York City. I met several successful women in the search industry and learned a lot from their experiences. I want to share these ideas with you now, so you can be bold for change in your own company and sphere of influence.
Be the captain of your own experience
Kristin Ogdon, senior marketing manager at Microsoft, shared her story about starting out in the print world at a large publisher. Although successful, she could see the print industry was transitioning into digital, and she wanted to be at the forefront of this new world.
So, when the opportunity at Microsoft came along, she took the helm of her career. Ogdon knew nothing about digital at the time, but she had the drive and passion to get in on the action. It was her decision; she was the captain of her own experience.
Today we’re embarking on a whole new revolution — one that’s driven by voice search, AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality), personal assistants and the Internet of Things. If you know you want to spearhead this revolution within your own company, but realize the cards might not be entirely stacked in your favor, don’t take it as a defeat.
Be the captain of your own experience, and find a company that embraces your innovative thinking and is as eager as you are to get ahead of this change in the digital tide.
Define what ‘dressing for success’ is to you
In the same vein as being the captain of our own experiences, we should decide how we want to dress — and not take any criticism for it. Listening to anecdotes from panelists and audience members, it was clear women are held to different standards than men when it comes to dress and overall appearance.
The Huffington Post published statistics confirming women who devote more of their time and money to their appearance make more money. Not only are women paid (20 percent) less than men, they also need to invest more money in their “looks” to reach higher levels of success, making it even harder for women to attain their career and financial goals.
Anecdotes were shared of women’s co-workers making comments about how they would dress if one day they showed up slightly more dressed up or dressed down than usual. My own co-worker, Jamie Kahn, SEM manager at Horizon Media, told me of times her co-workers at a previous company asked if she was going on a date based on the way she looked that day.
I felt disheartened. We work in an industry that tends to live and die by “business casual,” yet women are expected to “dress to impress” to be successful. I think we should take this opportunity to set a new standard by being bold enough to interpret “business casual” however we choose, giving us license to define what a successful woman looks like in today’s workplace.
If you feel empowered dressing like you just walked off the runway, DO IT. If you feel like you do your best work wearing jeans and a T-shirt, you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for it.
Of course, make sure you’re within your company’s dress code policy, but wear what makes you feel like your best version of yourself. If someone has something to say about it, boldly explain to them that it’s really none of their business to comment on how you dress.
Educate people in your sphere of influence
We should educate the people within our sphere of influence by having an open, honest conversation in an effort to create allies, not enemies.
At the Janes of Digital event, an audience member shared a story where her boss described her as “bossy” in her review. This is an all-too-common misconception of women in the workplace, but Ogdon gave some advice that can resonate with everyone.
“Stop and listen,” she said. Sometimes it just takes a few moments to think about what was said or how you reacted, but what’s important is how you move forward — by making allies.
Frances Donegan-Ryan, Global Community Engagement Manager at Bing and moderator of the Janes of Digital panel, admitted it took six months of having open and honest conversations with her boss to create the strong relationship they have today.
Be willing to have those hard conversations, and try to be patient with one another. If you’ve walked away from a situation feeling offended or frustrated, know that it is never too late to talk about it. Just because something happened days, weeks or months ago doesn’t mean your sentiments aren’t legitimate.
Emilie McKittrick, Senior Creative Content Editor at Getty Images, acknowledged that although it can be hard to be a bold woman in the workplace, changes in perception are happening. She shared some recent Getty Images search statistics that were encouraging and exciting:
Image searches for…
- “female programmer” increased by 144 percent
- “women in technology” increased by 111 percent
- “business woman technology” increased by 1,300 percent
- “woman protest” increased by 300 percent
These are strong indicators that the way women are being perceived in the workplace is, in fact, changing, judging by the way advertisers are searching for images that depict women as successful and powerful. We may have a long way to go — about 170 years, according to the World Economic Forum — but we are on our way.
Being bold can take many forms — and you don’t have to go it alone
If we can’t boldly advocate for ourselves or for our peers, how can we expect to make any progress? Whether it’s telling yourself that you’re strong and confident five times in the mirror every day, mentoring a colleague to help them fulfill their potential or being willing to have a deep conversation about what inclusivity in the office means to your team, it’s one more step in the right direction.
Being bold for change is an important team effort that not only affects us as individuals, but can impact our clients and the work we do as marketers. If you don’t inspire inclusivity and boldness in your own team, then the one person who realizes that a model quelling a protest with carbonated sugar water might not be a great idea for an ad will be too afraid to speak up.
This is not exclusive to women. It goes for people of all genders, backgrounds and races. I look to men specifically to become the biggest advocates for women, because the odds are already in their favor.
I hope we all understand the importance of fostering and protecting boldness and help open the doors to other perspectives.
Make today the day you inspire inclusivity. Make today the day you empower your peers to take the next step on their journey to success. Make today the day you be bold for change.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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Author: Yael Baifus