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This year International Women’s Day (IWD) looks to ‘#BreakTheBias’ challenging us to actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time we see it. As a digital agency we wanted to contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way. And so, turned to Yardies who currently break biases in their roles. Not only are we led by a female CEO but have a number of women working in STEM.  

So how do they break the bias?  

Without launching into an endless list of data sets, there are a few that stand out that we’d like to share. In the FTSE 100, only 31 women hold executive roles. There are only 8 female CEOs. On top of this, the percentage of female executive directors has flatlined for the second year at 13.7% (11.3% for the FTSE 250). 

If we look at data science, BCG found that there are as little as 15% of roles held by women worldwide. A ‘male-dominated’ field is defined by anything that has more than 75% of roles taken by males and this falls firmly into that category. 31% of tech jobs in the UK are held by women (ONS Data- 2021) and this number is far lower in tech leadership positions as it’s estimated that only 10% of women hold these. 

A report published by LinkedIn found that Marketing Managers are more likely to be women (59%). In 2021, 52% of CMOs were female. A step in the right direction, this rose 5% from 47% the previous year. Historically, despite women being the majority in this field, it was not reflected in senior roles. 

With that in mind, we wanted to hear the perspective of those in our business. We spoke to Emily Davies (ED) our Lead Data Scientist, Rhiann Brokenshaw (RB) one of our Junior Software Developers, Rona Leslie (RL) our Marketing Manager and Collette Easton (CE) our CEO. We asked them five questions to provide insight into what their role means to them in the context of IWD. Here’s what they said.  

 
Interviews 
 

1.0 - Where do you think changes need to be made to attract more females into your field and ‘Break the Bias’? 

ED: I stumbled across ‘my field’ totally by accident whilst trying to get out an exam at uni. There was a module in R (the programming language) which was 100% coursework based and doing a Maths degree where there are MANY exams, this was very appealing. I had no idea what programming was back then, or what job opportunities it could offer, but it just so happened that I totally fell in love it. I have no idea where I’d be now if it wasn’t for my split-second choice for dodging an exam, but I know for certain it wouldn’t be something I love more than what I do now. I got lucky.  

There are so many job opportunities in data and programming and if it were taught throughout schools, at all ages, we would see many more women in the industry. 

RB: I think it’s really important to spark interest early on. We should be demonstrating to children from an early age the wide range of paths and possibilities available in STEM, while making it clear that STEM careers aren’t just for boys! Education naturally plays a huge part in this, but the visibility of inspiring female role models and mentors is just as important. It makes a big difference to see women in leadership roles; “it’s hard to be what you can’t see”! 

RL: Marketing is seen as one of the industries where the gender split is fairly equal. And yet, until a few years ago, the majority of senior leaders were male. It’s fantastic to see the number of women in top positions increasing. So, it feels like the real challenge for marketers is not to break the bias as such, but rather to (keep) breaking the ceiling.  

Many reports suggest that the drop-off in female marketers moving into senior roles was because more women take a step back from their careers to raise children. The only tangible way to combat this is for organisations to ensure their female staff are supported in doing both. There are lots of fantastic examples of this and I applaud the companies making these strides. One example of an employee who was promoted to become CEO in a new market whilst pregnant sticks in my mind. Having had her baby, the company paid for her mum to move to Sweden with her to offer constant child support, so she didn’t have to pass up on the opportunity. We need all companies to take such ownership and give their staff this type of support.  

CE: I’ve been in the SEO space for 20 years. And a commercial person for many more than that – that’s as much as I’m prepared to share! 

I have been successful in this area because in Search, and tech in general, selling isn’t selling. Its solution finding, problem solving and relationship building. I utterly love what I do. I have found an industry that has never stopped fascinating me, I have met incredible people along the way – I think I may be one of the luckiest women in the UK. 

I do believe women feel quite comfortable in the SEO industry. 20 years ago, it was definitely more male dominated. But many smart women have, over the years been breaking that bias, helping balance that gender split. 

2.0 - How big a part do gender stereotypes still play in career choice and what can be done to minimise this?

ED: I’d like to say it doesn’t, but unfortunately young girls can be impressionable, and hence gender stereotypes could have a negative impact on the choices they make about their career path. There are many great organisations promoting girls in STEM, and I encourage all women in the industry to get involved and be a face for these young girls to look up to.  

RB: I do think that we have come a long way, but it’s important to recognise that gender stereotyping still has the potential to affect people of all identities when it comes to career choice. We are all made of the same stuff and we have equal potential to excel in whichever career we choose. Young people should feel empowered to pursue what they enjoy, without conscious or subconscious bias affecting their decisions.  

RL: Particularly in STEM roles stereotypes are still apparent. Looking at the bigger picture, 65% of primary school children will work in roles that don’t even exist yet. So, it’s not just about gender inclusivity, we need to start talking to our young people about a whole variety of options for their future careers. This month, we’ll be running a workshop at Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh, discussing a number of roles at Yard in hope of giving students some insight into potential choices.

3.0 - Do you think it’s important that there is a gender balanced workforce in your field? Why? 

ED: I think it’s always important to have a diverse, and gender balanced workforce as it enables teams to bring different ideas and approaches to the table. Having many different minds working towards an end goal is always a positive.  

RB: I think diversity within a team is important in bringing a broad range of ideas and skills to the table. By having a diverse mix of people around us, we are exposed to different perspectives and approaches, which can spark creativity and innovation. If companies are not encouraging women to join their workforce, then they are missing out on a huge pool of talent and skills!  

RL: Absolutely. Aside from the obvious moral obligation - that no matter an individual’s gender, race, or background they deserve an equal shot - it has been proven on countless occasions that a diverse workforce is far superior in achievements. McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in senior roles were 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability compared to companies in the fourth quartile

CE: To be honest, I don’t see women in SEO facing significantly different problems from the problems that women, in general, will face in their careers. Having a balanced gender workforce has significant benefits, not least stats show balance makes for a happier workforce, a happier workforce achieves less churn, higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. At Yard, we enjoy a pretty balanced split. 

4.0 - What would be your advice to women thinking of starting a career in your field? 

ED:  Be driven. Email companies for work experience, do online tutorials, work on your own projects. Show your passion for the industry and don’t be put off by gender stereotypes. Working in technology and data is so rewarding, especially if you love problem-solving.  

RB: I made the jump to a career in software development in my 30s, so it’s never too late! If you love to code and enjoy solving problems, then don’t be afraid to break the mould and turn your hobby into a career. As the old adage goes, ‘find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Learning to code takes time and effort and is a constant learning experience. However, we are all in the same boat no matter our gender, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, and strive to support others in their journeys too. Seek out female role models – I follow inspirational female software developers on social media, who help to remind me that we are all talented, capable, and certainly not alone!  

RL: Never stop learning. Particularly in marketing, things are always evolving. Best practice today might not be as relevant tomorrow. Rather than simply rely on what you’re taught at university or the information that colleagues share with you, search for your own knowledge. Read books, articles, websites. Find sources of great insight and challenge yourself to learn more than what is required in your day-to-day responsibilities. There are also a ton of excellent courses available. Last year I completed Marketing Week’s Mini MBA with Mark Ritson, which I’d thoroughly recommend.  

Be ambitious and decisive. Decide where you want to be in 5 years’ time and keep working towards that. Not just the job title you hold or the salary you earn, but the type of business you want to work for, the city or country you want to live in, the sort of people you want to surround yourself with every day. Those things are your decision to make, so don’t leave it up to chance.  

Find a mentor. The idea of mentoring was first introduced to me through the WACL mentor programme. Yard suggested I partake. I was matched with 4 senior marketing leaders from a variety of industries and organisations. Each person was picked because of my experience to date and ambitions. It was incredibly useful. I’ve since contacted other marketing leaders that I admire on LinkedIn and had mentoring sessions with them. Most people are flattered to be asked and happy to offer advice. And if you’re just starting out in marketing, I’d be delighted to be your mentor. Email me rona@yard.email.  
CE: Identify your passions, hone your skills, keep learning, practicing, and experimenting. I’d recommend running your own projects outside of your day job, which will add to your craft and– turn you into an experienced pro with actual hands-on experience which makes you invaluable to your company and your clients. 

5.0 - How vital is it to support each other on the journey towards workplace equality, not just for International Women’s Day, but throughout our careers? 

ED: Extremely important to keep pushing towards driving equality in the workplace. It will take some time, but with the right education throughout all phases of school, from primary to higher education, we will get there!  

RB: I am very lucky that I have never felt ‘different’ or ‘the odd one out’ as a woman in my field, and that is testament to the fantastic support I have received from all of my mentors and peers during my own journey. I think it is extremely vital that both men and women play a part in encouraging and lifting up others, ensuring an inclusive workplace where all members of the team can thrive. Here in Cubed I feel very lucky to be part of a lovely, supportive team that help each other, share knowledge, and celebrate each other's successes. 

RL: Of course, it’s critically important. Gender inequality needs to be recognised and companies need to purposefully address it. But inclusion isn’t just a gender issue. We need to support all, whether ethnic groups, the neurodiverse, the LGBTQ+ community or individuals with a disability. It’s on all of us to include everyone. 

CE: The world is digital, you are surrounded by opportunity: experiment, learn from your mistakes – remove your ego. That expertise will give you confidence in the workplace. It takes a village to raise each of us. 

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