International Women’s Day: Women In Ad Tech Talk About the State of Gender Equality

Despite all major industries rallying for diversity and inclusion initiatives, research shows that women leaders leave their companies at the highest rates we’ve ever seen. 

Why is this the case? 

According to Jessica Cortapasso, SVP of People, Digital Remedy, women are “seeking meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality and are not afraid to seek new avenues.” Whether they transition to a more inclusive company or branch out to start their own, professional women are fighting for the next generation of women. 

Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. With organizations such as She Runs It, Chief, and Female Quotient, women are afforded opportunities to network and learn from each other. They are working towards closing the wage gap, increasing the number of women in leadership, and creating a healthier work culture.  

Best Piece of Advice 

Lorin E. Bona Head of Analytics & Revenue Optimizations, News & Media Holding Companies, News Partnerships, Google.  “While I did not receive this advice, I would offer this to women in ad tech: focus on your value and be your own best advocate. Success in this industry is driven by curiosity, agility, transferable skills, and a growth mindset. When you focus on your strengths and achievements and speak up for yourself and business needs, you will be better prepared to navigate and attain personal and professional growth.” 

Lashawnda Goffin, CEO, Colossus SSP. “Ad Tech is ever evolving so be prepared to consistently learn. Having a mentor is also critical so you’re not navigating alone.”

Olha Paramonova, VP, Ad Tech, Sigma Software. “Leadership is not related to any domain. A true leader is THE Leader in anything. Starting my career, I had to find my place by myself. My environment, at that time, was short on women leadership. At work, we all had to match the man’s world, being supportive, agreeing, covering for any need, and having a low voice on important things. I did not ever get any advice. However, I had a very good “man” friend who sent me the book as a hint (“What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business: Opening Up the Heavily Guarded Alpha Male Playbook”). The book depressed me very much; I think I was too young to see the real thing. It was an ugly dish served to the table, but still very refreshing. I wish we all had a good friend to send us this book as career advice.”

Katie Cladis, VP, Product, Digital Remedy. “It’s evident larger industry norms are slow and hard to change. Therefore, I advise women to hone in on key metrics like the percentage of females on the board or in leadership positions when searching for jobs. In other words, find a company with a history of hiring and elevating women to maximize your potential and the opportunity to thrive in a work environment that supports your career growth. Don’t waste time in places that don’t value diversity and inclusion. Progress is happening, but not enough. We must band together to create the change we wish to see.”

Best Practices: What Broad Steps Should We Take to Ensure Gender Equality?

Alex Theriault, Data & Customer Solutions Expert & GM, Spherical at Lotame.  “There’s a great need for support systems to help women get back on their feet, even for women still in the workforce who wish to elevate their career prospects. While there are established networks and organizations that focus on women’s empowerment in the workforce, many have high membership fees, which, for many women, are unrealistic with today’s strained economy. Not only do women need better support systems and opportunities, but they also need them to be affordable and feasible. Just as companies help pay for college loans for young professionals post-graduation, companies, and organizations can help contribute to membership fees for their female employees.” 

Jessica Cortapasso, SVP of People, Digital Remedy. “Hiring more women in the workforce is not the end goal but the launch point. Companies need to prioritize their growth and retention once they hire women. This involves training managers to support their teams, flexibility to support a healthy work-life balance, company commitment to well-being and DEI, and fostering a mutually-beneficial, purposeful work environment. Workplace preferences and needs are changing rightfully, so listening to and considering employee feedback is critical to improvement. All employees should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.” 

Rachael Ferranti, VP of Corporate Marketing, Foundry. For this year’s International Women’s Day, Foundry is supporting the “change the narrative” campaign by CPB London that challenges the unconscious gender bias in the workplace by donating ad space on our owned and operated editorial sites to ads that encourage viewers to consider the gendered words they use for males and females exhibiting the same behavior. Along with elevating women internally and externally and ensuring equal pay, this is the type of provocation of thought that companies need to support to continue breaking down the barriers between men and women in martech, technology, and across the workplace in all industries.

A Seat at the Table: The Future of Women in Leadership 

Gabrielle Turyan, Director of Product Marketing, Digital Remedy. “The shape of leadership is rapidly evolving alongside the martech industry. Thanks to pivotal organizations like SheRunsIt and inter-organizational mentor groups, women like myself have a seat at the table. Being a part of this journey into a leadership role has taught me to advocate for myself and other women to take part in senior roles, speak out, and have a voice. I look forward to watching these incremental changes come to fruition.” 

Michelle Harmon-Madsen, CMO of SponsorUnited. “It is more critical than ever for women to feel supported in the workplace for companies to ensure they maintain female leadership and knowledge. Unfortunately, our industry is losing women disproportionately, and we must safeguard against that. Companies prioritizing a balanced corporate culture are attracting and retaining the best and brightest women and talent – and other companies should follow suit. 

Jennifer D’Alessandro, Head of Ad Sales & Marketing, HappyKids. “Women leaders in the ad tech and CTV space are the quintessential example of tenacity – an unshakable focus and drive in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. We cannot let anyone tell us that we can’t do something or don’t deserve a “seat at the table.” By advocating for ourselves and collaborating with our colleagues through continued learning, and building, we rise above competitiveness and open doors for women throughout the industry. We need to continue the industry’s progress in recognizing strong, intelligent women to better the way for future leaders. Mentoring the younger generation is crucial to continue the path of inclusiveness and bring up strong, intelligent women.”

The Next Generation: Leading By Example

Rachael Ferranti, VP of Corporate Marketing, Foundry. “At Foundry, we both serve marketers and are marketers, so we are intimately familiar with the industry landscape. We prioritize elevating women and female voices across our global organization because we know that is the only way to represent a female-dominated industry. 5 out of 7 of our Marketing Leadership team members are women, and across Foundry, women lead in sales, HR, strategy, development, and operations. Our popular technology events have long promoted women in the IT space on some of the most high-profile stages in the industry, including the CIO 100 and CSO50. Our executives—especially those that came of age during the “old boy’s club” order—examine our makeup continually, with an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

Megan Saunders, SVP, Global Marketing, Emodo. “Emodo is committed to elevating and empowering women through its first ERG, Elevate, launched in Q1 2022. The ERG kicked off last International Women’s Day and has since had sessions on creating meaningful connections in the workplace, advocating for yourself, preparing for performance reviews, and discussing Roe v. Wade. This year on International Women’s Day, Elevate will host a session on how women and allies can better support each other in the workplace. I’m incredibly proud to be part of a company’s leadership team that respects, promotes, and develops women in the ad tech industry.” 

Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, Chief Revenue Officer, Yahoo. “While professional women still face significant gaps in opportunity and outcomes compared to men, there has been remarkable progress in advancing career opportunities. On the heels of the global pandemic, which the data shows particularly strained women, there has been great importance put on creating an inclusive work environment that empowers more women to join and succeed. In the ad tech space, it’s clear that diversity and inclusion drive innovation and better decision-making, giving companies a competitive advantage.”  

Ana Martinez, Chief Technical Officer, Uberall. There are many tangible steps companies and leaders can take. For example, when reviewing salaries and performances, there needs to be a constant focus on whether there are any disparities between gender, and if so, find out why. Empower women to oversee many of these review processes to help reduce biases when making hiring and promotion decisions. Also, there should be consistent self-examinations within every company and department to ensure that gender-discriminatory practices are discovered and weeded out swiftly.