An adult woman sitting on stage and speaking to the four other adult women seated next to her and listening. Behind them are two monitors with the text

How to Support Women in Ad Tech

Professional headshot of Annika Mitic
By Annika Mitic, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications
August 17, 2018

Prepare to be unsurprised, and perhaps underwhelmed, by something we all know: there is a gender gap in the workforce, particularly in technology. Some studies show that only 24 percent of technology jobs are held by women and others state there has been a decline of 13 percent in the representation of black women in tech. Ad tech, a niche branch of the larger technology marketplace, has similar numbers and there appears to be a paucity of females in leadership across the industry.

Due to these numbers, there is a lot of discussion around ways to engage women in technology, retain them and not fall into merely hiring female leadership when “glass cliffs” are reached. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending AdWeek’s “Women in Media and Sports Summit” to participate in the industry discussions. Core topics discussed were being bold and speaking truth to power, the use of data to improve customer experience, and finally how to encourage positive change within the industry.

Speak Truth to Power

Luvvie Ajayi set the tone as keynote speaker, keeping her message simple and honest. If we are to expect change within the industry, we need to be willing to speak up and be human in the approach to our roles.

There have been multiple marketing debacles in the past few years where it was evident there were neither women nor diverse perspectives represented in the room. Or if there was representation, their voices weren’t heard. As women in an industry that has room for growth, it is vital we are willing to be the nay-sayer and be thoughtful in approaching our roles. Challenging your peers can be done respectfully and graciously. Staying silent, and not standing up for the underrepresented, will prove to be very costly.

Use Data to Improve Customer Experience

Harnessing data is one of the best ways to positively impact customer experience. There was a consensus amongst event participants that mining social data and taking the time to analyze proprietary information will allow brands to more effectively target their audience with relevant content. This is especially important if you are trying to break into a new market or expand to an untapped audience—such as women.

Employing social listening and strategically addressing brand perception will allow you to positively impact the overall customer experience. The key to data analysis is to go in with a clear goal so you don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of information available.

Affect Positive Change in the Industry

It is one thing to commiserate with each other, it is one thing to talk about change, it is another to put change into motion. The final panel of the event highlighted that change needs to begin at the top. They shared an example of how HP’s CMO, Antonio Lucio, requires the inclusion of women with every facet of his business. He demands to have women on his internal team, on the agency team they work with, and all creative submissions must include options from women directors. To affect change, there must be intentional choices and policies enforced that protect and empower women.

Additionally, as women mature in their roles, it is imperative to reach back and provide support to women at different stages in their careers. Provide mentorship, speak up and demand inclusion. In order to address the gender gap, women need to pave the way so there is a foundation for other women to build upon and grow from.

What’s Next?

The conversation at AdWeek’s event was encouraging and helpful in simplifying what can become a complicated issue. However, I think perhaps the most impactful moment was at the end during Q&A.

A woman worked on a small team and was the only woman at her company and in a leadership role. She posed the question of how to redirect the conversation so that journalists and peers don’t solely focus on her gender when discussing her position. Her question puts a spotlight on perhaps the largest hurdle women will need to overcome to enact change within the industry.

If we focus too much on the role our gender plays in a professional environment, and do not invest in the work itself, we prevent the conversation from getting to the next level. There needs to be a both/and approach. To earn a seat at the table, we must first hone our skills and excel in our roles.

There is a lot of positive change that is happening within media, ad tech and even technology today. Indeed, there are companies that are starting to get it right and who invest in their women workforce. However, even with shifts in the right direction, there is much work to be done. It will take collaboration and advocacy from our male peers to keep pushing the conversation forward. Further, it will take working together for the change to be successful and lasting. Together, we can shift the tide and produce positive change.

For more info on how PubMatic is addressing diversity and inclusion within our own company, keep an eye out for our 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Report coming out soon.