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How Gender Inequality Helped me Rediscover the Joy in my Career

Almost one year ago to the day, I applied to the Master of Design program at Swinburne University of Technology. At the time, my decision to head back to university felt more like me clutching at straws rather than a strategic career decision; I felt lost in my career, not even knowing where I was in the pipeline let alone where I wanted to be.

My anxiety made things worse. At times, my brain would be telling me to pull the emergency stop on my career and abandon ship while the other half was telling me to keep calm and carry on. It felt comparable to having five backseat drivers while I, the driver, just wanted to pull into the Maccas drive-through of life and veg out in the carpark. It wasn’t until my first semester back at university that I realised that it was the corporate landscape, rather than my anxiety, that was the catalyst for my career-panic.

I started my career working in manufacturing as a Marketing graduate, where, with the guidance from my boss, I was able to come into my own as a professional marketer. After two years with the company, I was offered a promotion; I was on the fast-track to the top. However, personal circumstance required that I move interstate and my career aspirations were put on hold.

Since then, my career has been in a holding pattern, with career-advancing opportunities knocking less frequently than before. I love my job and the people that I work with, but my fixed position had me asking the question “Is it me? Am I the problem”? It was at this point that my university coursework, serendipitously, provided the answer.

Every year, the Big Issue, a social enterprise that aims to provide work opportunities for the homeless, holds its Big Idea competition. The Big Idea is a national university competition where students are asked to submit a business plan for a new social enterprise that aims to support a disadvantaged community. For my business plan, I chose to look at women’s career progression and what I learned was interesting, yet troubling:

Women have been entering the workforce at the same rate as men for decades; however, women remain underrepresented in senior levels (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 474, Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2017, p.1). This lag in career progression for women, when compared to their male counterparts, has been found, in part, to be due to Second Generation Gender Bias.

Second Generation Gender Bias is the powerful yet often invisible barrier to women’s advancement which arises from cultural beliefs about gender as well as workplace structures that inadvertently favour men (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 475). Most women are unaware of having been victim to this type of discrimination, but it is what makes it harder for women to transition into leadership roles (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 475).

Transitioning into a leadership role is fundamentally a question about identity and not the position one holds within an organisation (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 765). Individuals will categorise both themselves and others based on stereotypes (Eysenck 2004, 657) making stereotypes directly linked to an individual’s identity which also applies when forming a leadership identity. “The social interactions in which people claim and grant leader identities…are shaped by culturally available ideologies about what it means to be a leader” (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p.476), and in most cases this meaning is masculine.

The lack of women in senior leadership positions emphasises this ideology. Furthermore, the social and recursive process in which one attempts to claim a leadership identity often favours men anyway, as they are more likely to receive affirmation of their behaviour due to organisational hierarchies that confirm the leadership stereotype as being masculine (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 475).

Compounding this, role models play an essential role in the successful development of young aspiring managers (Singh, Cinnicombe & James cited in Michailidis, Morphitouu & Theophylatou 2011, p. 4234) and are also critical to young female employees (Swiss cited in Michailidis, Morphitouu & Theophylatou 2011, p. 4235). Men in senior positions are less likely to take on proteges and, when combined with the lack of women leaders, this creates a significant barrier for women’s professional development as a group, globally (Michailidis, Morphitouu & Theophylatou 2011, p. 4243).

So where does this leave women? For women to progress, they must actively seek out professional development opportunities, such as leadership programs. However, current leadership “practitioners and educators lack a coherent, theoretically based, and actionable framework for designing and delivery leadership programs for women” (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p.475) forcing them to adopt one of two approaches:

  1. “Add-women-and-stir” (Martin & Meyerson cited in Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 475) which assumes that gender does not matter for leadership development; or
  2. “Fix the women” (Ely & Meyerson cited in Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011, p. 475) which locates the problem with women.

Both of these approaches fail to address the male-favoured organisational hierarchies that women face in the workplace, nor do they provided women with the facility to develop leadership identities. Ely, Ibarra & Kolb (2011 pp.486-8) identified three fundamental principles for designing and delivering women’s leadership programs, and these are:

  1. Situate Topics and Tools in an Analysis of Second Generation Gender Bias
  2. Create a Holding Environment to Support Women’s Identity Work
  3. Anchor Participants on their Leadership Purpose.

It was this third and final point that truly resonated with me and, through personal brand work, I was able to solidify my personal brand values. It was from here that I was able to identify my career purpose which is ultimately to learn and create.

What I truly love about working in marketing, regardless of the industry, is testing hypotheses; taking customer data and working out what type of content resonates with customers and what doesn’t. It is from here that I realised that, as long as I am learning and making those dataful connections, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning and not the position I hold within an organisation. Although, Marketing Manager does have a nice ring to it.

Learn more about gender equality

References

  • Australian Government & Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2017, Australia’s gender equality scorecard: Key findings from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2016-2017 reporting data, Workplace Gender Equality Agency, viewed 16 August 2018, <https://wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/2016-17-gender-equality-scorecard.pdf&gt;.
  • Ely, R.J, Ibarra, H & Kolb, D.m 2011, ‘Taking Gender into Account: Theory and Design for Women’s Leadership Development Programs’, Academy of Management Learning & Education, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 474-493.
  • Eysenck, M. W 2004. Psychology: An international Perspective. New York: Psychology Press Ltd.\
  • Michalidis, M.P, Morphitou, R.N & Theophylatou, I 2012 ‘ Women at workequality versus inequality: barriers for advancing in the workplace’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 23, no. 20 pp. 4231-4252.

GENTLE MONSTER Punches Ad Fatigue in the Face

I recently stumbled across an article¬†on combating Facebook Fatigue in which the author stated that creativity might be a marketer’s last competitive advantage. In this regard, brands like Gentle Monster are smashing ad fatigue in the face by redefining the customer experience and turning their Brick and Mortar stores into art galleries.

If you’re in need of creative inspiration, check out the Kubrickian style promo for Gentle Monster’s Capsule Collection 2018 called “Once Upon a Future.”

Google Ads is Not the Silver Bullet to Your Engagement Problem

Whenever I first sit down with a client to talk about customer engagement, one of the very first questions I get is: “Can’t we just do some Google Advertising”?

My response is almost always the same: “It is inadvisable at this point in time”, usually¬†said while sipping tea and peering over the edge of my glasses (not really, I hate tea, but I do wear glasses).

Unfortunately, there is a paucity of general knowledge surrounding how search engines like Google work, and, given the push of countries like India to become a 100% digital economy, this needs to change if businesses and indeed citizens intend on successfully adapting to this new environment.

In a lengthy post that may be more conducive to a video format, here are the three main reasons why Google Ads is not going to solve your engagement problem:

1. Google changed the way it ranks pages

Way back in 2015, Google released its Phantom Update. This update redefined the way in which pages are ranked. The update saw content categorised into two types of pages based on their level of influence: YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) and non-YMYL pages.

YMYL pages include:

  • Shopping Transaction Pages
  • Financial Information
  • Medical Information
  • Legal Information etc.

Given the effect that these pages have on either your money or your life, these are ranked to a higher standard than non-YMYL pages. To be considered high-quality (and make your way to to the top of the search results), YMYL pages need to establish Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (EAT).

Unfortunately, there is no single action that you can do to establish EAT; it needs to be built up over time and here’s how:

  • About Us Page – The About Us page is, apart from the Home and Contact Us page, the most visited page on any website. So, spend some time on this; keep it concise yet informative. How would you describe your business in one sentence to someone who knows nothing about your product and services? Think of it as your company’s elevator pitch and emphasise your USP/SMP in short and engaging sentences. If you work in a technical or regulated industry, include bios of your team members and don’t forget to link to their LinkedIn bios (if appropriate).
  • High Quality and Regular Content – By posting relevant and accurate content on a regular basis, you’re telling search engines like Google that you’re up to speed on the latest industry knowledge. For highly regulated organisations in the medical, legal, or financial sector, this is critical.
  • Backlinks – Backlinks are still one of Google’s top ways of determining page rank. Look at who your key refers are and see if you can team up to create co-branded content. Encourage backlinking by linking to external sites. Make sure that when promoting through social media, your posts link back to your website, otherwise you’re wasting a perfectly good post.
  • Go Mobile – Google started indexing Mobile first this year, so, if your website isn’t mobile optimised or at least mobile-friendly, then you need to get that fixed. Like yesterday.
  • Practice good SEO – Remember in the old-style western films where the Villains wore the Black hats, and the Heroes wore White Hats? Don’t be a Black Hat – Use White Hat Techniques. If you’re not sure which SEO techniques are Black and which are White, check out this infographic from Cognitive SEO for a brief overview.

2. SEO does not have an on/off button

“Let’s put our competitor names in our keywords and that way we can appear when people look for our competitor?”.

No. Here’s why:

  1. It won’t work
  2. It’s keyword stuffing, and that leads to penalties.

Back when Google was in its infancy, keywords were one of the main tools used for improving search engine ranking. Today, in this humble Marketer’s opinion, they have become more like a bottle-opener keychains – handy to have, but not crucial. At the end of the day, it’s going to be your content, backlinks, landing pages, and social media activity that gets you to the top of the search engine heap and not adding a single line of text into your metadata.

3. Google doesn’t care about your money

Spending more money does not mean that you are going to get better results when using Google Ads (formerly AdWords). At the end of the day, Google aims to provide a service to its users; providing relevant and recent results – this is why they are the number one search engine in the world. I am sorry to say, but Google doesn’t care about your $2,000 per month spend on Google Ads – it’s just a drop in the ocean for them. If your page isn’t useful to the searcher, then no amount of money spent on Google Ads is going to fix that – only time and hard work will.

If you want to know more about Google’s Keyword Bidding system, then check out this video from Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian:

What Google says about video content and why you need a strategy.

Often seen as being too costly with minimal return-on-investment, video is by far one of the most underutilised weapons in a business’ marketing arsenal. The truth is that video is the most highly consumed digital content around and businesses without a video marketing strategy are missing out.

Here are the facts:

Companies that use video on their website experience 41% more traffic than those who don’t (SmallBizTrends) and including a video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80% (Unbounce). However, there is still an unwillingness to include video in strategy. I think that it all comes down to content.

So many times I have seen organisations dismiss video because it’s too hard or they struggle for ideas. Luckily, like all things, Google has the answer: A Google survey found that users predominantly use YouTube to help them solve a problem or learn something new. With YouTube being the number one video platform on the internet, it is imperative that businesses prioritise this type of content into their video strategy.

Types of “How-To”

In video marketing, there are three tried and true forms of video content: Testimonials, Tutorials, and Demonstrations. “How-to” falls under the tutorial category, which can be further broken down into two types: “Process” and “Tips”.

Process videos are your general step-by-step guide that helps users solve a problem that they may experience. In this type of video, the order of the steps are important (just like a cooking recipe) and as such, it’s a good idea to add either transcripts or captions during playback.

“Tips” videos are helpful to users in a more generalised way than that of “Process” videos. Using the recipe example again, a tip video maybe something along the lines of:
“Five reasons why your cake isn’t rising” or “How to buy the right type of cake tin”. Here, the order is not as important.

Elements of a good “How To”

Beyond a good concept, there are a few more things that you’ll need to consider before you can start filming.

Your video needs to be inspirational. The whole aim, of course, is to achieve your business objectives and the way to do this is by leaving your viewer feeling like they can do anything.

Two words of warning, however:
1. Make it feasible. There’s no point in creating a how-to video if most of your audience is unable to achieve the solution.
2. Consider the legal implications of publishing a how-to video. For example, you wouldn’t want to post a video on “How to Do Your Own Electrical Work” if your target audience is the general population; very risky.