Trailblazers and Marketing Trends Show Promise for Female Professionals

Sarah Steimer
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Key Takeaways

What? More women are gaining leadership positions, both in politics and business.

So what? Working women, especially those who are older, may be inspired by this fact and the demand for seasoned perspectives, particularly in marketing.

Now what? While more women are filling leadership roles, aspiring women must be their own advocates for higher-level positions.

July 20, 2016

Women are gaining leadership roles across the globe. 

Theresa May was just named the new British prime minister. Angela Merkel is chancellor of Germany. Here at home, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. What does this mean for women—particularly those in their 50s, 60s and beyond—who are looking to further their own careers? Maybe a little, or maybe a lot.

“It signals to other women—including younger women and men—that women can be in these roles and it motivates them and signals to them that they can attain that level in their career,” says Avery Blank, principal and owner of Avery Blank Consulting.

A global report from Grant Thornton, “Women in Business: Turning Promise Into Practice,” found 24% of senior roles in businesses are held by women. As of this year, 11% of women in senior management positions are chief marketing officers.

“The number of women in all C-level positions is only going to increase; there is no reason to assume the CMO role will be any different,” says Margaret Molloy, global CMO at Siegel+Gale

The benefits of age

Many of the women climbing the ranks in politics are in their 50s and older. Age—or, rather, experience—is a benefit in marketing careers as well.

“Women shouldn’t put a lid on their careers based on a number or their age,” Blank says. “That age can be an asset and more seasoned women can add great value. In marketing, there are so many products and services that target women in their 50s and 60s. So who is likely the best person to understand this group? Women in their 50s and 60s.”

An article in The Atlantic from June 2015 suggested aging could be an asset for women looking to further their careers later in life—and not just because they have more education and experience than previous generations.

“It’s also because women, often held back in midlife by domestic responsibilities, are in many ways suited to shift into high gear at a later age than men—to have it all, as the saying goes, by having it at different times,” article author Liza Mundy wrote.


Women who leave a job to raise children, for example, or help their parents can bring a new set of skills to their career upon return, which some companies have begun tapping into.

“What I’m seeing is that companies, at least progressive companies, are recognizing that mothers and those with external lives add great value to their organizations because they get to bring a different perspective and skill set to that organization,” Blank says.

Leading ladies and the women who may follow

Younger women—and others—can look to female leaders as role models, which can be particularly important in fields where there are few women. Blank noted that some women can be hesitant if they do not see someone like themselves in a role. In fact, it may not even register on their radar as an option.

As Molloy explains, any good leader can help inspire.

“All leaders are role models whether we deliberately chose to play the part or not,” says Molloy, adding that millennials, in particular, are looking for inspiration. “My personal leadership philosophy is lift as you climb. I look for every chance to inspire all emerging leaders.”

The Grant Thornton report found women feel there are a lack of adequate support structures to help them lead, and the report authors suggested a strong network of people to encourage and inspire may be key.

Blank says the upward movement by Merkel, Clinton, May and other leaders signals to women that they, too, can be in these roles, and it could motivate them to attain such a level in their own careers.

Molloy cautions against drawing too many parallels between these three women’s leadership tenures and any gender-related trends, instead suggesting that their performance records are defined less by gender and more by their “extraordinary leadership.” That, she says, is inspiring.

The way forward (and up) from here

“If you want a position, you need to speak up for it,” Blank says. “You are your best advocate. Even though you may feel like you’re not 100 percent ready and prepared for the job, still put your hand up anyway. You will learn along the way.”

Blank recommended women network and understand all facets of their business. She also quoted Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who said women shouldn’t leave before they leave. In other words, try not to plan too much for your career in a way that closes off opportunities in the future.

Women in business are already performing very well, Molloy says, pointing out that some of the top C-level leaders today are female.

“If we are committed to closing the gap between women and men in senior roles, including CMOs, it’s important to focus on performance, as defined by delivering the desired outcomes to shareholders and other constituents,” she says.


Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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