It is important to recognize the challenges we face in the digital sector as we strive for a gender-balanced industry. Additionally, it is also key for employers to consider how these challenges can be overcome.

While there are some areas within digital where we are seeing more women pursue careers, we still have a shortage of women pursuing careers in the digital professions overall. We also see a much higher percentage of men in more technical roles.

So, how can we better support the development of women in our industry? And what can be done to encourage more women of all ages and experience levels to pursue a career in digital?

The Future of Digital

There is no quick fix for the gender gap in digital. There has been progress in some sectors where women are increasingly choosing digital careers, particularly in marketing, communications, and client-facing roles. But this is barely the beginning when compared to what needs to be done for a truly gender-balanced industry.

Support is needed to encourage women to explore their options in more technical roles such as PPC, programmatic, and automation. There is also a real need for in-role training and development to encourage women into more senior roles. The question is, how do you as an employer, and as part of the industry as a whole, do this?

Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring is a fantastic tool for the workplace. It not only allows experienced senior leaders to share their knowledge, but it also affords those in junior positions the opportunity to explore their potential and seek guidance for career progression. It is important to note that mentoring doesn’t have to be an overly formal arrangement. It can simply be someone to sense check decisions and provide a sounding board for ideas – more of an ‘on-the-job guide’.

If your business doesn’t have a mentoring program in place, it would be beneficial to look into your options. If possible, a formal program is great. If not, opt for something more casual, but encourage your staff to reach out. This might simply be someone else (ideally impartial) in the company who an employee can speak to for advice on an internal or sensitive issue. Externally it could be a previous employer, client or business partner who is familiar with the company or industry.

Alternatively, there are a number of organizations dedicated to supporting women in business. Many of these online companies provide the platform for women to reach out to senior leaders from across the world for guidance in their careers.

Role Models in Digital

We are seeing an increasing number of women in senior roles at some of the world’s largest companies. Examples of such women include Sarah Flannigan, CIO at EDF, and Jacky Wright, CDIO at HMRC who are both highly regarded leaders in the digital space. This is not only a positive sign that more women are in fact leading the way in the sector, but it is also inspiring to all women hoping to build their career in digital.

Role models are individuals who are viewed by others as being successful -- whether that be in terms of personal characteristics or workplace successes -- and an example of what should be aspired to. It is important for employees to have people they look up to, and whom they can aspire to emulate. Ensure the leaders of your teams are diverse and are demonstrating positive, encouraging behaviors to those that report to them.

Education

Our career aspirations start early in our lives, which is why it is important to make the opportunities within digital clear from the beginning.

While there are some jobs, such as teaching, medicine, or accounting that are well known and have clear career paths, other career opportunities fly under the radar. Because of this, opportunities in areas such as engineering, technology, and digital aren’t as obvious, especially to girls. It is important for industry professionals, organizations, and governments to attend schools to educate students on their career options.

In the workplace, digital leaders could also be running similar sessions to educate their more junior employees on digital practices, such as digital strategy, budgeting, PPC, and/or programmatic. This way entry-level or junior staff can get a glimpse into what their senior leaders do.

Work Experience/Internships

Companies that can offer local school or college students the opportunity to work as part of an internship or work experience program will help shape the perceptions of young women considering their career options. Allowing those who are still unsure about what career they’d like to pursue the chance to gain first-hand insight into the industry and what a potential path might look like as a professional in digital will be instrumental in increasing awareness of the opportunities.

From an outside perspective, a career in digital may seem intimidating, particularly the more technical roles. It’s not and it doesn’t need to be.

Ultimately, it is no one person’s job to act as a role model or to endorse the opportunities in the sector – it is everyone’s. The opportunities in digital should be discussed with daughters, friends, your direct reports, and even your colleagues from other functions who might not understand what digital really is.

If you would like to discuss how we can help with your digital recruitment, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants for a confidential conversation today.

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