Leadership tips for helping women CMOs getting ahead

CMO talks to several female marketing leaders on the secrets to their successes

In the wake of International Women’s Day, talk continues around how women need to forge ahead in their careers.

CMO had the opportunity to talk to a number of female marketers about how they got ahead in their careers and the top lessons they learnt along the way - lessons to benefit all those looking to make their careers in marketing a success.

1. Being yourself

Be yourself - this is the top lesson many of our marketers stress. In other words, don’t try to be what you think colleagues or bosses want, instead be authentically you, and you will find the right career niche.

Kellogg Company managing director, Esme Borgelt, told CMO the single biggest success factor is having intellectual curiosity and to live a life of learning, and you truly are never 'ready'. 

“So be bold and brave, find what you love, and jump in with both feet. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to fail. And don’t be afraid to be yourself. Only you can do you,” she said.

Chief digital and marketing officer for Westpac group, Martine Jager, agreed it is counter productive to emulate anyone.

“Be yourself, set out to create your own story, your own success. I truly believe that if you are not authentic then long-term sustainable success is not possible,” she said.

2. Find a good mentor

Head Giraffe at Purple Giraffe, Lynda Schenk, argued for being yourself and not trying to be someone you are not. Be confident in your decisions, and to engage a good mentor or two. Borgelt also added it's important to find mentors that can help you and advised not being shy to ask someone to be your mentor. 

“Some mentors will become lifelong friends, and some mentors will give you the help that you need at the time and move on. All learning has value,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have had the support of some amazing men and women, who have helped build my career. The best way to pay them back is to help others to do the same. If we all did that, it would make a significant difference in the quest for equal opportunities in a very short period.”

One thing that has remained consistent throughout her career is the support, guidance and friendship of strong mentors, said Amaysim CMO, Renee Garner.  

“Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have been taken under the wings of inspiring women like Catherine Tanner, Kim Clarke and Clare Savage who have played an instrumental role in shaping my career,” she said. 

“My advice for any young women looking to make their mark is simple, don't be afraid to ask for support from the women around you. I cannot overstate the importance of confidence and connections in getting you to where you want to be. One thing that I have come up against time and time again (both as mentor and mentee) is that as women, we don’t always back ourselves. If you really want something, there’s often very little standing in between you and achieving it.

“I truly believe the experience of mentorship is so important in building confidence, perspective, and shaping the kind of leader you want to be. I encourage all women reading this to think about who they would like as a mentor (whether that’s a current manager or colleague) and going for it. And they don’t necessarily need to be in your immediate network, perhaps you’ve seen someone that you admire on LinkedIn? Connect with them and see if they’re keen for a quick lunch time coffee, the worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no’ and you continue powering forward.”

3. Know your purpose

Finally, get clear on your purpose and what you want to achieve in your career - don’t just go where the wind takes you. 

“Get to truly understand your purpose and be clear on what’s important to you,” Borgelt said. “This will help you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead and stay motivated when things go wrong. It helps with resilience because you are working in ‘service’ of something greater than you, giving what you do each day meaning. Having purpose is about wanting to make a difference. It is the legacy you are going to leave behind.”

Jager added you need to be doing what you enjoy; what makes you feel good. 

“Don’t get me wrong it can be challenging and frustrating, but you find you miss work when you’re not doing it. I love my work and I love my family, so I surround myself with the support that allows each to flourish.

4. Believe in possibilities

Jager also noted we all live in a world of possibilities and there is always a way, an opportunity.

"You just have to open your eyes and open your mind sometimes to find them. Lean into what seems scary, put your hand up and have a go, surround yourself with talented people from diverse backgrounds," she said. "Remember you don’t need to be the expert on everything but knowing how to access the experts is important, and take action even if you make a mistake. Just don’t make the same mistake twice – this would suggest you had not taken the time to learn from the first.”

5. Help others along the way

And once you reach the height of success you’ve dreamed of, be sure to help others along the way.

“I believe successful women leaders all stand on the shoulders of the brave women that came before us,” Borgelt said. “Successful women leaders today have a moral obligation to continue to journey, to build up young women leaders to unlock their unique potential and to play a bigger role in driving societal change eradicating gender stereotypes, in service of gender equality at all levels.”

Vanguard CMO, Louise Eyres, added be a genuine partner for those whom you work with and work for and stay curious. 

“Curiosity will lead you to look outside your sector, industry or country and see what is possible both in terms of your own career, whom you may partner with in business and who you can learn from.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia. 

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