Women In Marketing: How To Beat Career Challenges For The Money

Women in MarketingThis year, I’m thrilled to celebrate International Women’s Day!

High profile American women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are the reason.

And it’s not about politics!

The world and our current language already add too much fuel to that divisive fire.

Rather these women, from varied backgrounds and experiences, show the rest of us that we too can shatter the glass ceiling.

More importantly, we can do it on our terms and in our own way!

And yes you can too!

Despite my honors undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, I still got asked how fast I could type at every job I applied for.

But I didn’t let that stop me!

And you know what I learned in the process?

“If you can’t get your career on track because you can’t get in the front door,” Heidi Cohen recommends, “Try the side door.”Click To Tweet


Further, regardless of where you are in your professional journey, you can still face setbacks.

The key to marketing career success:
Figure out what you need to do next to make progress along the way while you keep your eye on your long term goals.

To help you, these successful women in marketing shared their work experiences. Examine them to see that you’re not alone. Further, use their advice to move your career forward for the win!

So put on your big girl pants and you go girl!


Women In Marketing Career Challenges: Research Numbers

Before we dive into what women in marketing say about their career challenges, let’s examine the data based on recent research. (Editor’s note: MM&M’s research focuses on the medical marketing.)

In general, marketers feel that their organizations are making process in terms of hiring diverse talent and including them in the c-suite.

women in Marketing Career Challenges

BUT when it comes to your personal bottom line, sex matters!

Based on 2018 marketing salary research:

YIKES Women earn an average salary of $141,784, 33.6% less than men who earn an average of $189,440, up from $171,400! #marketing #salary via MM&MClick To Tweet


So much for equal pay for equal work!

Average Marketing Salary By Gender

Even worse, employees believe compensation disparity exists:
46.6% think “they get paid less” than others in the same position compared with 11.9%  “think they get paid more.” (MM&M Research)

Further, you must not limit your income negotiations to salary!

Instead women consider their total compensation package including:

  • Paid medical and dental insurance
  • Ability to telecommute (but don’t overlook related costs)
  • Paid medical leave (also paternity leave)
  • Retirement benefits including pensions, 401Ks and other options
  • Bonuses and stock options

Remember: Assess what’s in your bank account!

As my mother taught me:
Regardless of your marital status, a woman must control and manage her own finances!


25 Women In Marketing Share Their Career Challenges

One way to overcome your career challenges is to listen to what other women in marketing have faced.  

So we asked women in marketing:
As a woman in marketing, what challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

women in Marketing:How to Beat Career Challenges


Olga Bedrina – Wave.video (@olga_bedrina)

As a marketing manager in IT, I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing and very supportive people. While technology remains mainly male, I find that this perspective shifting somewhat.

That said, I still had to overcome certain difficulties at the beginning of my career. I found it hard to get my work taken seriously. At the time, I attributed this to being a young girl in my mid-20s.

I had male managers at every job. At one position, I had to work really hard to prove myself. Even worse my boss yelled at me and, sometimes, humiliated me. I took his words personally and found it emotionally difficult even though he was the problem.

Further at a company, the newsletters showed employee photos with their signatures to help customers know the real person behind the brand. To which I received numerous comments the photo stating, “Can-I-get-your-number?” I wonder if my male colleagues got this type input? 🤔

Editor’s Actionable Marketing Note:
Monitor your website, blog and social media profiles to find and remove not only trolls and spam but also divisive comments. Also implement guidelines for visitors!

Jenny BrennanJenny Brennan – AgoraPulse (@jennybrennanme)

My biggest career challenge:
Overcoming the little voice in my head always asking, “Who do you think you are that you can do this?”

To perform at a high level and achieve the best that I can in my career I practice personal development.

Leslie Carruthers – TheSearchGuru.com (@LeslieCarruther)

My biggest challenge: The lack of female mentors and sisterhood!

For much of my career being the only or one of a few women in a meeting, on a team and/or part of management, the men’s comraderie wasn’t available to me. But I lacked a sisterhood to replace the “boys club.”

Because, if other women present, they were:

  • Not at an executive level
  • Unavailable for outside of work bonding due to their families, or
  • Laser-focused on their management track with sharp edges from making their way in the male dominated environment.

As women, we didn’t have a translatable bonding experience (like golf) to bring us together. Further, the perfectionism that this created made the situation worse.

Editor’s Actionable Marketing Note:
Create cross-company activities to break down barriers among employees. Bear in mind that how your staff view your firm has an impact on how they talk about it! Further, marketing should support HR and how your business is perceived by prospective hires.

Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide ( @HeidiCohen)

While working for The Economist taught me that a multinational company could be a liberal organization based on merit regardless of sexual identity, race, country of origin, religion or other difference.

When I worked there, both the CEO and the COO were women and the head of my division was an Orthodox Jew.

That said, prior to joining The Economist, I faced career challenges relative to my male counterparts to get equivalent career advancement and compensation parity at a variety of major global corporations.

But even worse:
My female bosses displayed the worst managerial traits! These ranged from not understanding marketing to being verbally abusive and having affairs with their bosses.

Pam Didner – Relentless Pursuit, LLC (@PamDidner)

The biggest challenge I faced was gender inequality.

As a result, I needed to fight harder to get projects with large scope. I found it important to proactively advocate for myself with management to get my due.

Gini Dietrich – Spin Sucks (@GiniDietrich)

Pretty much every challenge that every woman in business has faced has been mine to overcome. I’ve been sexually harassed, passed over for promotions, paid less, and all.

I once quit a job because a client came to my hotel room and wouldn’t stop banging on my door until I called security…and my boss asked me to stick it out because they were our largest client.

But since I started my own business, I’ve been very, very lucky until recently (the past 18 months or so).

Since I’m in PR and it’s a “girl” industry, men felt OK hiring us. After all, it’s what girls do.

But as we’ve shifted to helping agency owners grow more profitable businesses, we’ve seen a major shift in sexism.

Now they think: “A girl telling me how to run my business more profitably?” No way!

As a result, we constantly discuss how to handle this challenge internally as we try to navigate the waters.

Michelle Garrett – Garrett Public Relations (@PRisUs)

Working in the tech field for much of my career, I’m sometimes one of the only women on the team.

Fortunately, I don’t feel this hindered my career. But, like many other fields, pay has sometimes been an issue.

Kristen HicksKristen Hicks – Austin Copywriter (@atxcopywriter)

I had to learn how to advocate for myself!

As a solopreneur, this had the biggest impact on my fees and learning to draw boundaries with clients. But, I’m getting better at it everyday even though it still takes work!


Carmen Hill – Chill Content (@CarmenHill)

I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career either working for myself or working in a woman-owned agency where women held most of the key leadership roles. While there were challenges, they weren’t related to being a woman.

That said, I definitely notice that other women still feel challenged to be taken seriously such as being included in the right meetings.

Zontee HouZontee Hou – Media Volery (@ZonteeHou)

Especially as a woman of color, it can—at least on a subconscious level—make your career trajectory seem limited.

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have women bosses, but they weren’t in the C-Suite.

Instead I sought out role models across industries from whom to learn.

Among the women people who inspired me to push the boundaries of what a woman’s career can and should look like were:

  • My mother who owned small business for most of my life
  • Cindy Gallop who was a pioneer of advertising and advocate
  • Ellen Pao who was a tech CEO, advocate and venture capitalist and
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sharon Hurley Hall (@shurleyhall)

I had male clients who undervalued the contribution I made to their marketing.

In one case, the client assumed that creating blog content and managing their social media presence was easy and gave the job to a family member.

As a result, their content marketing stagnated and they learned the value of my work.

Six months later, they asked me to return without any push back about my rates.

Lisa Marcyes – Oracle (@Lisa_Marcyes)

I had to convince the c-suite (and my family) that social media wasn’t a fad. Further I had to prove that it involved more than posting tweets.

They underestimated that social media marketing involved strategy, content, editing, photography, and graphic design to create a successful campaign!

As a result, I learned to communicate in a way that made sense each of the different stakeholders involved in every campaign.

To accomplish this, I had to understand the various lines of business so that I could speak in a language that resonated with them. This was pivotal to my ability to succeed.

Julia McCoyJulia McCoy – Express Writers (@JuliaEMcCoy)

As a young female CEO in her 20’s, I feel blessed that I haven’t encountered a lot of negativity from our clients or potential clients. Instead, the only emotion I seem to encounter there is respect!

However, my challenges come from the hiring and firing aspect of my business. To meet our clients’ needs, I run an agency of roughly 90 people. As an entrepreneur, I learned that not everyone works as hard as I did. But leading a team of people, you need to be ready to deal with that.

As a woman—and in my 20s!—I hesitated to terminate people for gender or age reasons.

BUT–I discovered that my hesitation hurt the business! Later I realized that if I had been firmer sooner, we wouldn’t be seriously behind on projects, or at risk of losing a client!

Today, gender and age doesn’t stop me now. Instead, I hold everyone accountable. And, more importantly, it doesn’t matter what my age or gender is or theirs.

Susan Moeller – BuzzSumo (@SusanCMoeller)

Having started my career in journalism, I transferred my creative skills to marketing. But I had to develop my business knowledge and vocabulary.



Deb Olsen – Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories LLC (@adllabs)

Personally I haven’t found being a woman caused me career challenges.  

Instead, I focus on my tasks in a  ‘non-gender’ way. And, I’ve discovered that if you don’t focus on it, you won’t see it.  

Further if a prospect focuses on gender differences, they were never a good fit for your business!  Simply move on.

Dayna Rothman (@Dayroth)

As I moved up the ladder into an executive role, the challenges I’ve faced as a woman in business have become more pronounced.

While marketing tends to have a higher number of women in leadership roles, in technology specifically, the number of women in leadership roles remains very small.

As a result, I’m typically surrounded by all male executive teams.  So a woman in a leadership role, I have to work extra hard to be heard. While frustrating, it remains a hard reality you have to deal with.

Unlike men, women often have to think about striking a balance between being outspoken and being perceived as “overly aggressive”. – Dayna RothmanClick To Tweet

I had to:

  • Force my way into a “boys club” environment,
  • Make the case to be at board meetings, and
  • Proactively persuade my male counterparts to view me as an equal leader.

Equality in business continues to be a hard battle. Further discrimination in today’s work environment often remains subtle. As a result, I often see more junior women shy away from leadership roles.

Ivana Taylor – DIYMarketers.com (@DIYMarketers)

In my corporate career, my biggest challenge has involved dealing with industrial companies that didn’t understanding marketing.

While engineering and manufacturing departments wont approval for $500+K machines with little effort I had to justify exponentially smaller expenditures.

Magdalena Urbaniak – Brand24  (@Meg_Urbaniak)

Early in my professional career I had to convince people that I had the necessary skills. While no one said out loud that they thought that I wasn’t professional because I was a women, they communicated it subtly. As a result, I couldn’t confront them.

At a PR agency, I had to work harder while every mistake was severely punished unlike my male peers. As a result, this caused me such stress and misery that my family wanted me to quit. But I stayed until I proved my skills and determination to the firm.

It’s a shame that women must worker harder to prove their professionalism compared to their male colleagues. That said, I still see women who express their reactions (including anger, stress, pride, joy, and disappointment) that get told that they’re being excessively emotional.

Pamela Wilson – BIG Brand System (@PamelaIWilson)

While gender-neutral, the changing face of marketing over the decades has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced. Everyone who started as a marketer when I did has had to navigate the change from print to digital. Since I have an aversion to boredom, learning and adapting over the decades has made my career more interesting.

As consumer buying patterns continue to change dramatically, I truly enjoy finding ways to engage with today’s empowered consumer!

Ashley Zeckman – TopRank Marketing (@AZeckman)

Most of the challenges I’ve experienced to-date relate to age and lack of experience. What young professional doesn’t think that they know everything?

While situations arose where I felt intimidated or my imposter complex I use them to learn by emulating marketers that I admire.  


Women In Marketing Share Their Career Challenges Conclusion

While you shouldn’t accept these challenges or put up with them these women provide proof that these situations did and still do exist.

Before complaining on social media or taking these issues to your management, understand that these actions may hurt your career and/or your job tenure.

Give yourself time to cool off before you decide what to do. It’s difficult to think straight in the heat of the moment.

Further, depending on the level of the challenge, you may decide to wait before taking action as several of these women did. 

Or, like Gini Dietrich, the problem may be too big to avoid! 

But, at a minimum, understand that you’re not alone as a woman in marketing when it comes to facing career challenges based on sex.

Whatever you choose, have faith in yourself and your ability to succeed in the long run!

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


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Photos of Heidi Cohen – ©2019, Heidi Cohen – Permission to use them is granted on the condition that you link to this article.
Photos of contributors are sourced from Twitter profiles 

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