A day to celebrate the achievements of women across the world, International Women’s Day encourages us to #PressforProgress in order to accelerate gender parity. To do this it is important to recognise the challenges we face in the digital sector as we strive for a gender-balanced industry. It is also key for employers to consider how these challenges can be overcome.
At Michael Page Digital, we have conversations with organisations looking to hire and build more diverse teams every day. While there are some areas within digital where we are seeing more women pursue careers, overall, we still have a shortage of women pursuing careers in the digital professions, and a much higher percentage of men in more technical roles.
So, how can we better support the development of women in our industry? And what can be done to encourage more women, of all ages and levels, to pursue a career in digital?
In the lead up to our ‘Women in Digital’ event, we spoke to industry-leading speakers, Gemma Spence, Head of Ecommerce at PHD Global, Stephanie Parker, Deputy Director of Digital and Content at Stroke Association, and Deborah Womack, CRM Strategy Director at Ralph Lauren. View our video above for their insight on how mentorship can, and should, be used to encourage more women into digital roles and senior leadership positions.
 

The future of digital

There is no quick fix for the gender gap in digital. As highlighted in our article, ‘What can be done to address the falling number of women in digital jobs?’, there has been progress in some sectors of digital where women are increasingly choosing digital careers, particularly in marketing, communications and client-facing roles but this is barely the beginning when compared to what needs to be done for a truly gender-balanced industry. 
Support is needed to encourage women to explore their options in more technical roles such as PPC, programmatic and automation. There is also a real need for in-role training and development to encourage women into more senior roles. The question is, how do you as an employer, and as part of the industry as a whole, do this?
 

Mentoring and coaching

Mentoring is a fantastic tool for the workplace. It not only allows experienced senior leaders to share their knowledge but it also affords those in junior positions the opportunity to explore their potential and seek guidance for career progression. At Michael Page, we offer a formal mentoring programme to all of our staff, however, this is not commonplace for many businesses, especially if they do not have the infrastructure to support such a programme. It is important to note that mentoring doesn’t have to be an overly formal arrangement, it can simply be someone to sense check decisions and provide a sounding board for ideas – more of an ‘on-the-job guide’.
If your business doesn’t have a mentoring programme in place, it would be beneficial to look into your options. If possible, a formal programme is great, if not, opt for something more casual but encourage your staff to reach out. This might simply be someone else (ideally impartial) in the company who an employee can speak to for advice on an internal or sensitive issue. Externally it could be a previous employer, client or business partner who is familiar with the company or industry.
Alternatively, there are a number of organisations dedicated to supporting women in business. Many of these online companies provide the platform for women to reach out to senior leaders from across the world for guidance in their careers.

Role models in digital

There are a number of successful women in the digital space and we are seeing an increasing number of women in senior roles at some of the world’s largest companies. Examples of such women include Sarah Flannigan, CIO at EDF, and Jacky Wright, CDIO at HMRC who are both highly regarded leaders in the digital space. This is not only a positive sign that more women are in fact leading the way in the sector but it is also inspiring to all women hoping to build their career in digital.
In a GOV.UK press release announcing Jacky’s appointment as CDIO last year, Jacky had this to say: “I am proud to represent women and BAME in technology and will continue to promote the vital role of diversity within our industry and more broadly.” 
Role models are individuals who are viewed by others as being successful, whether that be in terms of personal characteristics or workplace successes, and an example of what should be aspired to. It is important for employees to have people they look up to, and whom they can aspire to emulate. Perhaps it’s their manager or the Head of Digital – ensure the leaders of your teams are diverse and are demonstrating positive, and encouraging behaviours to those that report to them. 

Education

Our career aspirations start early in our lives which is why it is important to ensure that the opportunities within digital are made clear from the beginning. 
While there are some jobs, such as teaching, medicine or accountancy that are well known and have clear career paths, other career opportunities aren’t recognised at all or are rarely discussed. Because of this, opportunities in areas such as engineering, technology and digital aren’t as well known. It is important for industry professionals, organisations and government bodies to attend schools to educate students on their career options. Particularly those who are preparing to choose their subjects for GCSEs and A-levels.
In the workplace, digital leaders could also be running similar sessions to educate their more junior employees on digital practices such as digital strategy, budgeting, PPC and/or programmatic. This way entry-level or junior staff can get a glimpse into what their senior leaders do.

Work experience/internships

Companies that can offer local school or university students the opportunity to work as part of an internship or work experience programme will help shape the perceptions of young women considering their career options. Allowing those who are still unsure about what they would like to do for work the chance to gain first-hand insight into the industry and what a potential career might look like as a professional in digital, will be instrumental in increasing awareness of the opportunities.
From an outside perspective a career in digital, to some, may seem intimidating or even scary, particularly the more technical roles. It’s not and it doesn’t need to be.
Ultimately, it is no one person’s job to act as a role model for women in digital or to endorse the opportunities in the sector – it is everyone’s. The opportunities in digital should be discussed with daughters, friends, your direct reports and even your colleagues from other functions who might not understand what digital really is.
If you would like to discuss how we can help with your digital recruitment, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants for a confidential conversation today.
Similarly, if you are interested in getting involved with our upcoming Women in Digital event in London on the 8th of March, or any of our future digital events, please call Siobhan Nutt.
Siobhan Nutt
Manager, Ecommerce Specialist, Michael Page Digital
T: +44 207 269 2110