Do Female Digital Marketers Need to ‘Lean In’?

Do Female Digital Marketers Need to ‘Lean In’?

At the end of last year, we released our Emerging Trends in Digital Marketing 2015 report. Flicking through its pages, I made a mental note of the usual highlights; offline spend still outweighs online (check!), personalisation is the next big focus for 2015 (check!), men think they’re better at digital marketing than women… (err, hang on a sec?!)

Nicole Stirling
Posted by Nicole Stirling

Yup, that’s right. When asked to rate their own digital marketing skills and knowledge, 38% of male marketers selected ‘excellent’ vs 18% of female marketers.

I immediately recalled that anecdote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, where the male college student assumes he’s passed with flying colours, despite putting in no preparation, while his female friend assumes she’s failed, after months of intense study. Is this statistic an indication of female marketers becoming their own worst enemies in the workplace? Or is there more to it?

Delving further into the numbers, there are clearly some areas of the marketing role that are favoured by both genders; for example, creative tasks (such as writing and working with designers) topped the list of preferred jobs (92% of female and 87% of male marketers listed this as their favourite task).

Both genders also enjoy working with digital technologies; interestingly, women actually rated this task more highly than their male counterparts (80% female vs 78% male).

When we get to interpersonal aspects of the role, the differences begin to emerge. For example, female marketers much prefer using social media (72% vs 49%), managing people (73% vs 60%) and managing events (52% vs 27%).

On the contrary, male marketers seem to gravitate towards number-crunching and revenue-related tasks, such as reporting to senior management (54% vs 48%) and working closely with sales teams (62% vs 41%).

Male marketers were also more likely to rank their organisation as ‘ahead of most competitors’ than female marketers (31% vs 24%). So what does this tell us?

Lean In is awash with statistics and anecdotes that, quite rightly, shock the reader; such as the 2012 study of thousands of political candidates which, despite all candidates having similar credentials, revealed that the men were 60% more likely to say they were “very qualified” to run for office than the women.

But, with researchers still struggling to decide whether a lack of confidence in females is a nature or nurture debate (or, potentially, a bit of both), the question remains: what could, or should, be done?

As digital continues to overtake offline, what does this lack of confidence around digital technologies mean for future generations of female marketers?

Nicole Stirling is the marketing director at the customer experience management firm Sitecore Australia.