Ask the marketers: Is International Women's Day still important?

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday and to celebrate women, CMO decided to ask several successful women marketing and company leaders their thoughts around gender parity and keys to their respective successes.

It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, a day that's become increasingly important in the ongoing recognition of the achievements of women contribute to every facet of society, business and our culture.

In line with this celebration of women, CMO decided to ask several successful women in the marketing ecosystem for their thoughts around gender parity both in the industry as well as in leadership, what International Women's Day means to them and its continued relevance, as well as the keys to their respective successes.

Martine Jager

Chief digital and marketing officer, Westpac Group

We definitely need to continue this conversation – inclusion in our work environment and in our work as marketers is essential. Inclusion where you are encouraged to bring your whole self to work, and where we celebrate diverse voices that appeal to the needs and wants of all in our community, is important for the success of your business. And it's also of course the right thing to do.

Martine JagerCredit: Westpac
Martine Jager


We’ve all heard the facts on the financial benefits of diversity of thinking. The world of marketing is no different. My personal experience has been one where males and females have helped me to flourish at every stage of my career, they have often helped me to silence the voice of self-doubt and encouraged me to take on every opportunity with passion and focus. I have never let myself think of my gender as a challenge but as an opportunity to be the voice of inclusion around every table. This means not just using my voice but encouraging and supporting others to be heard.

It is vital we foster women in leadership because women make up more than 50 per cent of the population. To not foster this huge proportion of our communities to pursue leadership in business means we are greatly reducing our talent pipeline.

I have been very fortunate to see firsthand at Westpac what it takes to support women into leadership roles, and I can confirm there is no silver bullet – you have to take steps to hardwire and soft wire changes in your organisation. Hardwire by setting targets, having them as part of your report cards for all people leaders and soft wiring by looking at practices in your business from every step of recruiting, every step of talent development, creation of employee action groups, encouraging the most senior people in the business to role model inclusive behaviours in how they lead and inspire their team and educating all within the company to be conscious of their unconscious bias and taking steps to address this.

I would also emphasise actions need to involve men and women. A perfect example for me is the importance of sharing the care in looking after families – both the young and the elderly. It is common to ask a pregnant woman how long she is ‘taking off’ but it is equally important to ask the partner how long they are taking off too. At Westpac, we have excellent paternity leave policies, but we need to see more organisations creating stronger parental and carer leave policies and fostering an employment environment that gives employees the confidence to use the policies.

I truly believe the implementation and use of these policies will help to create an environment for women and men to thrive as parents and carers and as employees.

Louise Eyres

Chief Marketing Officer, Vanguard Australia

It’s heartening to see in 2020 women are on par with their male counterparts given the equal split of male and female chief marketing officers reporting into CEOs and having a seat at the executive table.

Louise EyresCredit: Louise Eyres
Louise Eyres


However, while gender may no longer be a limiting factor for CMOs, there remains challenges in some sections of media and creative, the CMO to CEO pathway, equality in terms of remuneration, as well as exploring other forms of diversity in the CMO community, such as age and ethnicity.

Although progress has been made, it is still too early to stop having these conversations. Increasing female and minority representation within leadership and more senior roles within businesses only strengthens the workplace through building diversity and fostering an inclusive environment.

In fact, in just the past few months I had a young female marketer discuss a possible new role application with me. Her natural bent was to highlight the aspects of the role she did NOT have rather than the skills that she did have. This self-selection out of consideration remains an inhibiting factor for many females.

Reflecting on my own journey from graduate to CMO, I would see three factors critical to my success:

1) Building and maintaining meaningful relationships and networks. In fact, I am now working with a key agency partner that I last worked with nearly 18 years ago. We have remained connected through the years and he has been an ongoing source of advice and perspective over decades.

2) Be a student for life. Continue your learning journey. I have embarked on formal training every three to four years and have continued to seek out learning opportunities. This is critical in a digitally-led marketing environment.

3) Say yes when others show confidence in you. If you are tapped on the shoulder to apply for a role which energises you and you feel passionate about – go for it! Don’t let self-doubt limit you.

Lynda Schenk

Head Giraffe, Purple Giraffe

I don’t like to think of the conversation being around women versus men, I like to think we can strive for gender diversity and equality in business. 

It is very clear businesses are very slow to adopt gender diversity, so until there is more equality from this stand point, I feel the conversations is definitely important and needs to continue to be had to enrich change.

Lynda SchenkCredit: Purple Giraffe
Lynda Schenk


In the world we live in today, with technology bringing us all closer, the boarders have been broken down, so I believe that gender diversity is the key to any company’s success. Diversifying a variety of positions, particularly those at the top. is about using the best resources to maximise an organisation’s potential. 

I believe, when businesses select a person for a position, no matter what sex, race, culture or age they are, it will mean that the work environment and the world will be at its optimum.

Female leaders definitely matter. There have been many studies on this topic and it has been proven companies with greater gender diversity, not just among the workforce as a whole but specifically within senior management, deliver better results. 

Many large businesses have a documents policy supporting gender equality. However, the majority don’t have these policies embedded in their management KPIs.  KPIs help to support desired outcomes of the organisation and should reflect businesses goals, including gender diversity. 

In order to achieve a great gender diverse work force, both men and women need be involved in conversation.  We can’t look at this as a women’s problem, we need to have men involved in the conversation.

The topic is important not only for moral reasons, it is important for businesses to be more successful. 

Leisa Bacon

Director of audiences, ABC

My personal experience across consumer goods and entertainment has been more women overall go into marketing roles out of university, which has meant most of the marketing teams I have worked in, or managed, have a disproportionate number of women at each level. This is offset by other departments, like sales/ technology/ production, which tend to have a greater number of men, especially in senior roles.

Leisa BaconCredit: ABC
Leisa Bacon

Read about how Leisa Bacon become 2nd on the 2019 CMO50 list

Hence I think the issue is, overall, women in senior leadership roles and getting onto the executive team/CEO/ noard, not marketing specifically, and this continues to be an issue.

I believe strongly women need to help other women, and that gets more important the more senior you get. There are less role models for senior women, so setting up and being part of networks becomes an important support, as well as a useful contact base. There are so many other things that would help though, from better child support and flexibility options for returning mums, to more pressure on major corporations to have stronger female representation on exec teams, in CEO roles and on boards.

There are no silver bullets. You need to be passionate about what you do, work hard and take advantage of the opportunities which cross your path. I have actively embraced further study, mentor programs, women in leadership programs, applied for and won international study scholarships, as well as taken employment opportunities which have put me outside of my comfort zone. 

Success doesn’t come from a single activity, it’s an ongoing commitment to learning and development and making the most of opportunities.

Related: Read more about how Leisa Bacon gained 2nd position on the 2019 CMO50 list

Up next: 3 female CEOs share their thoughts on gender parity, marketing and what it takes to progress women in the workforce

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