What Are The Remaining Challenges To Progressing Gender Equality?

Society has come a long way on gender equality but there is still a long way to go. The workplace is one of the many places where continued action is needed to tackle inequality. The reality is that there are important discussions and revelations surrounding the obstacles women still face in the workplace, which range from the gender pay gap to unconscious bias, and even sexual harassment. 

It is not an easy issue to discuss, but the truth of the matter is that difficult and transparent conversations are needed to understand why gender inequality still exists. 

Having worked in roles across the digital and communications sectors, I have been fortunate enough to witness first-hand the positive changes that have been implemented by organisations in the marketing and advertising industries to empower women. Having achieved a senior position at a company that prides itself on promoting diversity and equality, I am motivated to create change so that more women are inspired to pursue successful careers. 

I am currently also a mentor at Bloom – an organisation set up to champion the positions and achievements of women in the advertising and marketing industries. At Bloom, we’re on a mission to ensure women have equal opportunity in the communications industry. By harnessing the power of their real voices, we strive to future-proof women’s careers, spearhead industry change and pave the way forward. 

Visibility at the top 

When we talk about gender inequality in the workplace, a common issue raised is having women in more visible leadership positions. 

According to research from Fortune in 2020, women account for 7% of all CEOs that make up the Fortune 500 companies. A further study in Oregon State University’s Journal of Management revealed that implicit bias can result in female candidates being overlooked in favour of male candidates during job rounds for executive positions. In response, many companies have begun to hide personal details when looking at CVs and this is certainly a step in the right direction. 

By having more women in senior leadership positions, we have clear sources of inspiration for younger generations to aspire to. It demonstrates that women have the ability and opportunity to climb up the career ladder and achieve positions of responsibility and leadership, helping to break the bias surrounding executive positions. 

My mentor and colleague, Stephanie Himoff, VP Global Publishers and Platforms at Outbrain, spoke about necessary change through actions at a recent panel discussion at the Cannes Advertising Festival. She highlighted that it is the role of business leaders to enable women to return to work through bettering a balance between family life and careers in senior leadership. 

This change will naturally take time. Yet, I am hopeful, particularly in the marketing and advertising industry, that we will see a significant increase in women in leadership roles. 

Collaboration is key 

The onus should not be placed solely on women to address gender equality. The reality is that success will only come when both men and women have open conversations and work together to ensure that stereotypes are addressed and effective policies with real outcomes are put in place.  

The direction and input need to come from the highest levels of leadership in an organisation through to junior members of staff. The point is that by offering insight from all levels of a company, we can access different perspectives which can, in turn, lead to creative solutions. 

From recruitment to talent management, appraisal to compensation, businesses need to constantly revisit policies and initiatives to ensure they are doing everything in their power to tackle gender bias. This also means revisiting common practices around recruitment and promotion so that all forms of conscious and unconscious bias are addressed. 

Where is the potential for progress in the digital marketing and publishing industries? 

At Outbrain, our main focus is to facilitate a creative environment that is representative of the societies in which we operate. Here in our UK office, 56% of our team is women with visible representation across all departments and roles. Rather than striving to reach a quota, we want to ensure everyone has the mentorship, guidance, and opportunity to effectively lead and pursue their desired careers. 

Giving women equal opportunities too when it comes to more senior positions is integral to this: whilst digital marketing and publishing industries generally have a better representation of women in the businesses, there’s still an imbalance in places in terms of those at the top. 

Simply put, there is much more work to be done.

About the author: Faye Liddle-Moore, Mentor at Bloom & Global Head at Outbrain Brand Studio. 

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