Man, I feel like a woman?
As Senior Account Manager at Leapfrogg, I am one of three men in an office of 13 (or 14, if you count Nora, our office dog). So for the first time in my career I find myself very firmly in the minority! I was asked for a Brighton Digital Women event to think about what this has meant for me and what, if anything, I’ve learned from the experience.
I’ve been in digital marketing and eCommerce for a while now, and have worked in a variety of capacities alongside account management, so I’d say I’ve got a pretty rounded skill set when it comes to digital marketing – previously I’ve worked hands on with PPC, SEO, content, email and social media. I’ve also worked on business development and new business, as well as having had both agency and client side experience.
I think before diving into the nuts and bolts of this, whatever they might be, that it’s important that I put a stake in the ground in terms of some of my own beliefs. Most relevant among these is that I identify as a feminist, but I realise that even this has different meaning for different people.
To me, fairly simply and perhaps a bit basically, feminism means equality between men and women. Whilst I realise there are men who put negative connotations on the “F” word, I generally think that these are angry or insecure men with “issues”.
With regards to the workplace, my view is that men and women, doing the same role, with the same experience, should be paid and treated the same. Of course, things like personality, success and ambition, as well as experience, are always going to have an effect on salary – however what’s really important, to me at least, is that this effect works both ways.
If a woman is better than me at my job, then she should be paid more than me, or vice versa.
Ultimately, if you start a role with the same background, experience, successes, etcetera, etcetera then you should get paid the same – where it goes from there should be down to how well someone does their job!
Working in an 80% female workplace as a bloke
So, as alluded to earlier, I currently work in an agency that is predominantly women. And I have found it to be great! Let’s throw some huge sweeping generalisations out of the way. There isn’t really any bitching or gossiping. We don’t all sit around doing each other’s hair or makeup, although I have recently learnt how to do a plait, albeit badly. We don’t really speak about periods, or which boys we fancy, or which Snapchat filter we really like. And we do speak about football occasionally, although admittedly this may have focused more than once on how ruggedly good looking the Icelandic football team was. But in essence, it’s no different to other working environments I’ve been in which are more predominantly male or perhaps a more even spread. In fact, I would say that the people I work with now are the nicest group of people I’ve worked with – and whether that is because there are more women or they just happen to be a really nice, like-minded group of individuals is something that I suppose could be argued either way.
I do feel particularly lucky, however, to work with some really inspirational women. Actually, I think it would be fairer to say that I work with some really inspirational people. I am working with some truly gifted colleagues who inspire me to be better, and whom I generally just really love working with.
A fine line between sexism and discrimination
I’ve always had good working relationships in previous roles too, but unfortunately I have encountered discrimination, or just sexism. Often that has been in the form of objectification – the group of guys who want to know which girl you would hook up with if you could – which is met with derision when you refuse to participate. I know plenty of women who have been on the receiving end of this – including one who had groups of male colleagues placing bets on who could sleep with her first.
And then there have been cases where I’ve actually seen just blatant discrimination. One couple I know met in a previous job. They both started in the same role, and she actually had more experience than he did, or at least more relevant experience. They didn’t find out until they had been together for a while that actually she’d started on considerably less than he had – they kindly did the maths for me, and worked out that she was earning 12% less than him.
What’s more, she didn’t get the same pay increases or the opportunity to get the same pay increases. Of course, some of this can be made speculative – perhaps she’s not as confident as her partner, or not as comfortable talking about career progression. But at the end of the day, she was just as good at her job as he was – she didn’t have the right leadership to help her develop or there wasn’t the inclination. I also know a number of women, this friend included, who have been asked wholly inappropriate questions at interview: are you married – are you engaged – are you getting married soon – are you planning to have kids?
Now I’ve stood up to this when I’ve encountered it myself, but it’s ultimately fallen on deaf ears. I do think it really important that men and women who encounter this sort of behavior stand up to it – and actually I think this is particularly important for men. I don’t think men can be the champions of women’s rights or on the front-lines – it’s not our battle to fight – but we should be supportive wherever possible, by standing in unison and standing up for each other.
Research into workplace gender equity
I said previously that I’m no expert in this field, but I was compelled to do some more reading, and from that reading – and some actual research – I wanted to share some statistics.
First of all, some research from Monster.co.uk, in conjunction with YouGov, revealed that almost a quarter of UK employers believe women are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing jobs within the technology sector, yet 75% admit they are doing nothing to address this.
Another article from “the candidate” looked at 150 digital businesses; they uncovered that there are nearly twice as many men currently working in the sector than women, with a severe lack of females in management roles, with 156 per cent more men taking up these jobs. The situation is more severe at senior management level, with just 18 out of the 150 businesses involved in the research headed up by women.
I came across a really interesting article on Search Engine Land, which looked at how men and women were rated by clients based on AdWords performance.
Even though women actually scored higher in terms of how good they were at using the platform, they were rated lower than their male counterparts.
From the 2014 Moz survey, men were on average earning $10,000 more than women working in digital… I couldn’t find a similar article regarding 2015, but I found the data which of course I immediately and gleefully started playing with. After a bit of filtering there were 449 UK respondents – 122 of these female so 27%. I thought it would be interesting to look at the UK in isolation, even though this is a small pool of data. When I looked at the salary differences – which took averages from the ranges of salaries respondents answered with, it actually came out that men were on average earning 39% more than women – I think this stat is a bit misleading given the size of the data pool but honestly I was shocked to see this.
A similar report from the CIM into 2015 wages showed that men and women in digital earned on average £47,000 and £35,000 respectively, so actually maybe this number isn’t too far off.
A further study suggests that men are less capable of coherent thought around women. Whereas women were able to perform equally well at a task regardless of whether they were told a man or woman was observing them, when they were told they were being observed by a woman (even one they couldn’t see, and who didn’t in fact exist) the men performed substantially worse than if they were told they were being observed by a man. I’d love to use that as an excuse, but I don’t think I was any more capable of coherent thought in male dominated environments either.
It seems there is certainly still a long way to go in order to get equality in the workplace
This has all made me really think about men and women in the workplace. Not just how it has affected my life but I think much more importantly how it has affected people I care about. It has definitely made me think about what more I can do to be supportive. I think the reflection involved in putting something like this together has also reaffirmed my own beliefs.
I think gender is a construct that has been used to men’s advantage and women’s disadvantage for a very long time… even though a huge amount of progress has been made in recent history, there is still a way to go. In my mind, there is no room for inequality between men and women in the workplace or in any aspect of society. We are all individuals with a variety of strengths and weaknesses that ultimately make us better together.
What can we do?
So the conclusion I have at the end of all this is really more of a question. I want to do more to help, and I think the role that men play in this is important, but as touched upon previously I think it needs to be a supportive one. So my question is, what should I be doing to best help and be supportive?
If you’ve got an answer then please leave a comment, or tweet @BTNDigitalWomen!
- Recruitment International: Women still at disadvantage when it comes to securing tech roles
- Women in Digital: A study into gender representation in today’s thriving digital industry
- Moz – Online Marketing Salaries
- CIM – Results of Salary Survey
- Scientific American: Why Interacting with Women Leaves Men Cognitively Impaired
James worked as an Account Manager for Cobb Digital. He has since moved on to bigger things at Sony!