In 2016, research from She Runs It uncovered that while 41% of early stage marketing employees are women, women only fill 25% of executive leadership roles. In 2017, Axonn Media spoke to marketers about the role of gender in the marketing industry and found that while the women in their sample were more experienced than the men, the men still dominated senior marketing positions.
To commemorate Women’s History Month and what it means to us, we started a content series on our blog where we speak with women in different positions in the field of Marketing to learn more about their roles, their experience, what it’s like to be a woman working in the marketing space including any challenges they have faced, and their recommendations for women dealing with gender bias in the workplace.
It is our hope that this will open up a discussion about gender disparity (and the need for diversity and inclusion) not just in the marketing industry but everywhere. If you have any comments about this series or would like to share your story with us, please feel free to send an email here, share them in the comment section below or chirp at us on Twitter.
3tl: Can you please tell our readers more about you? And how you got into Marketing?
O.Y: I was born and raised in Ukraine and came to the US when I was a young adult to study as an exchange student and later got my MBA. Procter & Gamble came to my college in Ukraine to recruit me for a Brand Management internship. I never looked back and have stayed in Marketing ever since.
3tl: Did you ever imagine yourself as a CEO?
O.Y: I imagined myself being an entrepreneur, regardless of title. I never had ambition to become a CEO of a large corporation. Rather than titles, ability to make a dent in this universe seems so much more compelling to me.
3tl: What inspired Shopperations? Tell us more about your company, its people and its culture.
O.Y: Shopperations was born out of frustration. Imagine an MBA graduate with years of experience, who expects to drive strategy and meaningful progress for her company. Instead, she is buried in spreadsheets, responding to the flood of internal emails, sitting in incessant internal “alignment” meetings and still not feeling like she knows her numbers. That was me being a Shopper Marketing Director several years ago.
The reason I was overwhelmed and frustrated is that despite the growth of consumer-facing technology and explosion of big data, CPG marketing industry is still highly manual. Marketers’ tools have not evolved since 20 years ago; a vast majority of them [still] run their business in Excel, PowerPoint and email.
Shopperations is an answer to the busy and overwhelmed Shopper Marketer who wants to seamlessly manage budgets, promotional plans and calendars, easily collaborate across the organization matrix and with agency partners. We offer cloud-based, collaborative planning tools for CPG and Retail marketers and their agencies. We automate the administrative burden so Marketers can do strategic work.
3tl: How do you look at Shopper Marketing today?
O.Y: I look at it with caution and hope. I am cautious because the way it’s been done to date has not proven itself. In most companies Shopper Marketing has been relegated to a tactical support function that is often an afterthought, a “nice to have” capability that is hard to prove and measure. I am hopeful because if shopper marketing is re-imagined and done right, it’s the only way to win in today’s marketplace. Shopper Marketing is modern marketing. Brand building and consumer marketing are taking a back seat and are no longer enough to dictate a premium. Seamless shopping experience will play an increasingly important role in setting brands apart from their competitors.
3tl: How have you seen Shopper Marketing change during the years?
O.Y: Shopper Marketing has become more fragmented over the years. The path to purchase is being disrupted by new digital technology and ways to talk to shoppers. In addition, e-commerce is now a real deal. Nobody thinks of it as a bright shiny object and a lot of foundational work is happening to enable seamless online shopping, both on retail and brand side.
3tl: Where do you think Shopper Marketing is headed in the future?
It will become a capability that winning brands will deploy across the enterprise. It will be the must-have skill set for brand managers and any marketing professional in the field.
3tl: What do you see as some of the challenges to the advancement of Shopper Marketing?
O.Y: Shopper marketing has been misunderstood and undervalued because it still lacks strong identity, processes, systems, tools, common terminology and standard KPIs. I spoke about it in my blog post: “Shopper Marketing, An Awkward Teenager”.
A lack of retailers embracing the term “Shopper Marketing” and not pushing for standardization of the industry is also a big miss. If you compare the journey that Category Management went through in the 1990s and early 2000s, you will see that adoption of common framework by both retailers and CPGs was what propelled this function to success. There are still too many vague and fuzzy aspects surrounding Shopper Marketing that create a room for confusion and misunderstanding.
3tl: Do you think being a woman has had any effect (negative or positive) on your progress professionally? If negative, how have you fought through that?
O.Y: Yes, I was coached on my style, not my expertise or results. I was told to temper my ambition. I was expected to be diplomatic and collaborative, instead of creating productive tension and propelling the business agenda forward. I was reprimanded for being tenacious and for calling shots without asking for permission. When I tried to initiate new work around emerging trends, I was told that I chase bright shiny objects and instead I should focus on delivering cases this quarter.
My 360-degree feedback was all about me making my colleagues feel better about working with me. I doubt that my male colleagues had to deal with this. I can see it clearly now, after I had time to process all these emotions after I left the corporate world. When I was in the moment, I really bought into the feedback, even attended “diplomacy classes”.
3tl: Do you have any advice for women who may be dealing with gender bias in their field?
O.Y: Read the article. Demand to be given constructive feedback on your performance, expertise, and results, NOT on style. I really think this article should be sent to every manager out there. There is a ton of implicit bias that many of them are not aware of.
Ask for stretch assignments that will make you nervous but that will also make you grow really fast… it’s tenacity, passion, curiosity and work ethic that will help you succeed, not years of experience, not education or current skills.
Network with people outside your work and even industry. A lot of ideas are born in the intra-disciplinary space. Speak at industry events if you have something to share. I am sad to see how many women doubt that they have something valuable to say. We all do.
Read this [second] article. I wish I read it when I was still in college.