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Becoming a Top Woman in Media & AdTech

June 27, 2023

The core tenets of diversity, equity and inclusion have an important space within many organizations today— however, overcoming the barriers between statements and actions is often no easy task. For example, while organizations may endeavor to have more female representation in executive roles of their organization, data suggests that the gender pay gap has widened — sitting at 18.6% for women at the executive level.

The Top Women in Media & AdTech Awards this June served as a valuable opportunity to highlight the women leading the industry forward across a number of categories in privacy protection, data demystification, mentorship and more. Both before and after the event, Evergreen & Oak took the opportunity to connect with a few of the winners to discuss their careers and the future of the industry.

Building Experience

Leaders aren’t born, they’re made. Jennifer Werner, vice president of sales at Teads, recalls moving around the country with her family when she was younger— giving her a wealth of experience in getting to know new people and the chance to develop new relationships by putting herself in new situations. Naturally, this carried into her professional career, as she pivoted from pre-med to the media industry. Careers can pivot across industries, or continents — honoree Scarlett Shipp, president and COO of AnalyticsIQ has built up her career experience in data analytics and risk analysis in locales such as Italy, China and India. 

Needless to say, the path forward is not always clear— in fact, it often requires what Aisha Burgos, Vice President of Technology Partners at Numatec calls “a start-up mindset.” Her 15+ years of experience have taken her across the media landscape, from mobile marketing to audience-building, to her current role, building technology partnerships with Numatec. Burgos accredits her success to her desire to learn, and take on new challenges as the industry has evolved.

For women looking to accelerate their careers, leadership skills like these can be curated at every step of the journey. There are a number of organizations designed to promote equity and women’s involvement in the advertising industry. For example, the Alliance for Women in Media has run educational programs, annual awards and more for over 70 years in their pursuit to highlight women in all sectors of the media industry. Many individual organizations and local chapters have their own communities for encouraging female involvement. These opportunities should be highlighted across organizations to improve accessibility for women at all stages in their professional careers.

Becoming a Guiding Force

One of the most important elements of being a true leader is reflecting on how you can impact the next generation. Though awards programs like the Top Women in Media & AdTech exist to highlight the women spearheading change across the industry, there is still a long road ahead— leading many to look towards up and comers to find inspiration. This category was the capstone of the evening for the awards ceremony, where honorees were recognized for their exceptional talent and contribution to the industry.  Honorees such as Gwen Smith, manager of revenue operations and publisher support at Media Tradecraft, took the stage to address leaders in the industry on how they can better support emergent talent in their teams.

Werner didn’t have to look far to find her own inspiration, during the awards— her daughter was in the running for the youngest attendee of the night. She shared that she has an interest in the media world, particularly in the entertainment space, and was proud to see her mom accept this award. For Werner, bringing her daughter to the event helped her to demonstrate her own advice: “Surround yourself with other powerful women, and lift each other up.”

Being a guiding force for the next generation is equally important to Burgos, who has a two-year-old daughter. Having worked as a professor and actively contributed to the Sales and Marketing Executives Association in Puerto Rico as a board member, she possesses a deep passion for imparting knowledge, providing guidance, and promoting awareness of the Digital and Media industry. Committed to mentoring and nurturing the growth of individuals and organizations, she aspires to find ongoing opportunities to share her expertise throughout her career.

Another vital element of being a leader is seeking out diverse perspectives. Deborah Kilpatrick, co-founder and VP of marketing at SourceKnowledge, a mrge company, reminds both current and emergent leaders to create spaces where everyone in an organization feels free to speak their minds.

“When your ego is left at the door, employees are more willing to be vulnerable at the table and ask questions or offer solutions that would otherwise be kept quiet,” Kilpatrick shared.

Ensuring DEI efforts are being executed in practice as well as writing is a vital tenet of Up & Comer honoree Susan Grace’s day-to-day in her role as co-founder and head of experience partnerships at Givsly. Grace builds meaningful experiences for Givsly’s partners, allowing them to act on the values they promote and give back to their communities.

The Future is Female

Where is the industry, with regards to female representation? While our respondents agreed that improvements have been made through awards and unique programs to build and improve upon leadership skills, there are still a number of stumbling blocks for women.

“Being a woman, you have challenges you need to face alone,” Burgos said. She recalled feeling the need to prove herself twice-over, as compared to other of her colleagues, particularly each time there was a new management team change. Through those experiences, Burgos learned how to effectively highlight her capabilities, a vital skill for anyone in pursuit of a leadership role.

Speaking up is necessary to advance your career and advocate for yourself. Womens’ voices can be muted, ignored and, in the worst cases, their ideas can be stolen by others. Self-advocacy is vital, and the more comfortable women can be with speaking up and owning their own opinions, the better off they will be, both in and outside of their careers.

In addition, many women face the challenge of balancing their work and home lives. Both Werner  and Burgos spoke on the decision to temporarily lean back from their careers, as they entered motherhood. There are an estimated 23.5 million working moms in the United States, and finding the proper balance for their families can be a challenge, especially when the United States has no federal law mandating paid maternity leave for employees.

Those recognized as Top Women have earned their place as leaders and change-makers in their organizations and communities. While they act as forces to push the industry forwards, the event this month serves as an important benchmark of how far the industry has come— and how far it still has left to go. These women, and others, will help us get there.