Hillary and Shattering Marketing’s Glass Ceiling
[Author’s note: Target Marketing and I are not endorsing any presidential candidate. This is a look at marketing strategy and business culture.]
Logically, women could be the hiring managers for the highest executive position in the country. Considering women compose the majority of the population, chances are these voters won’t make Hillary Clinton go searching in the men’s restroom for the position’s description — as Lara Shackelford, CMO of Altify, had to do for one of her first marketing leadership positions.
This bathroom situation may hardly be the norm at most brands, but choosing predominantly male CMOs sure is. Despite 57 percent of the marketing workforce being female in 2011, figures from a 2012 study show only 8 percent of CMOs were women. (Opens as a PDF) In 2015, Forbes named two women as being among its list of the “10 Most Influential CMOs.” (In the list naming Phil Schiller, worldwide marketing SVP at Apple, as No. 1, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock who “oversaw the founding of Hulu” is No. 5 and Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon is No. 8.)
Yet 20 years ago, it was worse, Shackelford says in her piece “Yes, We Have Women CMOs: Now we need more,” published in December 2015 in Marketing Unbound.
“One day,” she writes, “it occurred to me the hiring managers were likely to be men. Instead of going into the women’s restroom, I snuck into the men’s. There, right in the center of the board, was the job I had been seeking. I walked into the hiring manager’s office and was made an offer on the spot. As the manager said, I had ‘moxie.’ ”
So Shackelford had to expect what was perhaps unconscious sexism. This is the “not thinking” excuse some marketers still use when, generously put, an ill-conceived marketing campaign gets labeled sexist. Campaigns, for instance, like the one from Bloomingdale’s that appeared to encourage men to drug women’s drinks for the holidays and made others wonder if any women had a say in that campaign before it went out the door.
But Clinton, the former secretary of state and the current “first woman to lead a major U.S. party as its presidential nominee,” is fully embracing the fight for which President Barack Obama endorsed her on Thursday.
Back in June 2014, Clinton said: "There's still this built-in questioning about women's executive ability, whether it's in the corporate boardroom or in the political sphere. So you just have to keep demonstrating over and over again that women have just as much right to run for these positions, and for voters to be asked to consider them, as men do.”
[Author's note: Target Marketing isn't endorsing a political candidate.]
Here are a few lessons Clinton’s candidacy may have to teach brands:
Women Don't Have to Act Like Men to Lead, Win in Marketing.
On Tuesday, Ezra Klein makes that point in his piece on Vox, “It’s Time to Admit Hillary Clinton Is an Extraordinarily Talented Politician.” Klein phrases Clinton’s effort in the primary as “less masculine.” And her strategy worked. “She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party,” Klein writes. “She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground and winning over allies. Today, 523 governors and members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; 13 have endorsed Sanders. This work is a grind — it's not big speeches, it doesn't come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can't summon."
Brands Need to Actually Interview Women.
It may sound obvious, but this still may not happen. And worse, sometimes women in leadership lecture women collectively about what they’re doing wrong, rather than taking into account that the job notices for leadership positions may still be in the men’s restrooms. [Author’s note: Hiring managers sometimes don’t even call in all of the qualified internal candidates for interviews or even put up a job notice — they only interview their picks. For instance, a brand hired one of my colleagues because its hiring manager played basketball with the man. The former colleague joined a then-all-male company.]
If marketers don’t think there’s a single qualified woman to promote to CMO among the 57 percent of market research analysts and marketing specialists tallied by the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau, those marketers can become mentors. Two Target Marketers of the Year, Sandy Carter of IBM and Dawn Zier of Nutrisystem, mentor female marketers. Target Marketing blogger Chuck McLeester mentored an entire team of women who then won a Marketing EDGE competition because of their campaign efforts for DirecTV.
“The C-suite landscape has changed a lot for women, and it wasn’t an accident,” Shackelford writes. “One of the reasons we’ve made the progress we have is because a group of incredible women very deliberately made their way forward and took themselves seriously enough to influence others to do the same. It’s a message I always enforce with the young women I mentor, because I think it’s one of the most important.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.