Why women are driving the marketing sector


MEDIA & MARKETING: Of the 81 shortlisted for marketing prizes, 56 were women and they won 11 of the 17 awards

THE MARKETING sector is a pretty lonely place for the male species these days, judging by the preponderance of women shortlisted for prizes in the recent All Ireland Marketing Awards. Of the 81 shortlisted marketing professionals, 56 were women and they won 11 of the 17 awards.

According to Aldagh McDonagh of the marketing recruitment company, Alternatives: “There are many good men in marketing but in recent years the sector has garnered a reputation as a female profession and maybe that is putting men off. I think business would welcome a more equal representation of men and women at this point.”

So how come women are so dominant in Ireland’s marketing profession? Is there reverse discrimination going on against men or are women just better in the role? Tom Trainor, chief executive of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, says that almost two-thirds of the students on MII courses are female.

“It’s very clear that female marketing executives are coming to the fore in the profession of marketing,” says Trainor. “Clearly many more women are proving they are the best people for senior marketing jobs. I don’t know why that is the case and I am very reticent to speculate about it.

“I am not saying this is my view, but some people say that marketing is a job where you have to multitask and women have a particular capability in that department. We’re just concerned that there is a level playing field for people interested in progressing their careers in marketing.”

The view of one female senior marketer, who prefers to remain anonymous, is that women do better at marketing than men because they are better listeners and communicators. She adds: “Women are also good at multitasking and project management, so we can work on the TV ad at the same time as locking down iterations of online ads and various on-pack executions. Women’s intuition is also useful, particularly for researching consumer insights. Women also tend to be more diplomatic generally, which helps when you are trying to navigate departments to get a job done. I would also say women are better at the emotional connection with a brand.”

One reason so many women end up in marketing is that degrees in arts, social science or humanities provide a strong basis from which to progress to marketing. In recent years, companies were also looking for marketers with foreign language skills, and more females than males do languages in college.

One of the AIM winners was Claire Lynch of McDonald’s. Lynch graduated from UCD with a BA in history and politics and followed this up with a masters in marketing at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Aoife Hall, another AIM winner, graduated from DCU with a 2:1 degree in international marketing with French and German. Hall is now a brand manager with Coca Cola having worked previously with other companies as a category manager and area sales executive.

Edel O’Leary, head of communication services in Ulster Bank, observes: “In my own team, the balance is 60/40 women to men. I recently recruited two young male graduates and one of them remarked how he was struck by the number of women in our marketing department. He says one of the problems at the moment is that young men are more predisposed to emigrating than women. He also believes that girl students are much more career-focused than boys. It can also be the case that young men who end up in marketing functions are quickly moved over into general business roles if they are any good.”

McDonagh adds: “The profession attracts women because marketing concerns the psychology of consumer behaviour, and that is quite a female thing. A key marketing skill now is the ability to work well cross functionally, and women do that well.”

But while women dominate junior and mid-level marketing roles, maternity leave hampers their ability to move into the boardroom, according to one senior recruitment boss, who declined to speak on the record.

“In many cases chief executives look for men to be their marketing director and the reason is that at the age people are ready for the senior roles, women tend to be having children. I think that is what prevents more women from making the jump from marketing manager to marketing director on the board. I spoke to a woman recently who has gone on four maternity leaves in five years and how can any business cope with that?

“I think the issue is the women themselves change in terms of realising you can’t do it all. They step out of the race to become marketing director unless they are the main earner in the family.”